Summer and the Spirituality of Rest

May 23rd 2014 No comments yet  

file9861310649818Typically, when people hear the word “summer,” images of beaches, pools, and vacations are the first thoughts that come to mind. I am not one of those people. Maybe it’s because I hate the beach (scalding hot sand and an ocean full of things ready to kill you, fun!), but I think more about what summer represents to us spiritually.

Our suburban two-and-a-half kids lifestyle seems to have morphed into a contest to see who can have the most frantic schedule. Kids have school, soccer, piano lessons, and play dates. We, as adults, have to chauffer kids to said activities while simultaneously managing our own work schedules. Nights at home are a blur of homework and prepping for the next day. Weekends are all about swim meets or baseball tournaments. We have created a way of life that is not complete unless every minute is filled and we are exhausted.

However, every year at the end of May we are thrown a lifeline, and the rhythm of our life decelerates. Summer arrives, and the very schools that dictated our schedules become reminders of how life is supposed to be lived during these months.

I can’t explain it, but there’s just something about an empty school in the summer that just fascinates me. The few times I’ve walked through schools in July or early August, I’ve felt like I was experiencing suspended animation. The quiet halls, empty classrooms, and dimmed lights make it seem like the building itself is resting from the task of containing bedlam nine months out of the year. It’s peaceful, still, and undemanding. For me, that’s what summer represents: empty schools, life scaled back, and how good that can be for us physically and spiritually.

The Sabbath is a largely forgotten tradition throughout the landscape of Protestant America, but it’s a reminder of how God cares for us practically. We know that He cares for our hearts and our souls, but we forget that He cares about our whole being, including our physical state.

The spirituality of rest is an oft-overlooked aspect of our faith, but to God, it is far from insignificant. He wove it into the very forming of the universe. After He was done creating the earth, He took a day off. Not because creating the fabric of our entire existence tired Him out, but because He was setting a precedent for us. Rest is a gift from God, created by Him to give us time to recuperate and spend time with Him.

Unfortunately, we have tried to exchange His gift for more time to get “important” stuff done. There is a time and place for work and being busy. They only become problems when they cross the threshold of excess, which we, as a society, have clearly done.

Just as the Sabbath was intended for physical rest, it was also meant to give us time to worship and pray. The most prevalent excuse people give for not spending enough time reading their Bible or praying is a lack of time. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough time, God made sure we did, it’s that we have chosen to worship busyness instead.

Just as we are meant to work during the week and set aside the Sabbath, I truly believe summer is the “Sabbath” of our year. We have been given a time when the pace of society slows down, and I encourage you to take advantage of it.

Do fun activities, take vacations to interesting places, but, at the same time, leave some open days on your calendar. Use the mornings that were once spent frantically getting kids out the door for a Bible study. Instead of ferrying the kids off to theatre camp, kick them out to go play outside in the neighborhood (do kids even do that anymore?). Spend time together as a family, whether it is at church or the neighborhood swimming pool. The key is not letting the activities become “time-fillers” to the point that you’re just as busy as you were during the school year.

Don’t be afraid of silence and downtime this summer. Embrace them. It’s critical for your spiritual development that you take the time to rest. People with chaotic schedules have neither the time nor energy to listen to God. Be willing to slow down and rest so you can hear Him better.


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