Rest easy, kiddo.
This is my fifth post in the past month being abroad and I gotta tell ya, I’m feeling pretty good about myself.
Here’s what doesn’t feel good: rest. I really didn’t want to talk about this, but I have the overwhelming feeling that I should, so here we go.
If you have been in my life at any point since 2010-ish, you’ll know that I pride myself on hard work. Whether it’s been school, yearbook, dance, serving with the Well, Student United Way, working at any of my jobs (there’s so many), or literally any other thing that someone asks of me, I’m always up for it. I’ve only ever resigned from one work position, and I cried when I did it because I felt that I was letting people down. If there is a single day where I don’t work or have plans with a friend (but almost always both), then I’m either sick or someone cancelled. As I think I've said before, “no” is not in my vocabulary.
Needless to say, I’ve been on Team No Sleep for a hot minute, and striving is the game I’m best at.
The past 10 years have been so enriching and full of wonderful memories that I never would have had if I had said no. I regret nothing. But since I’ve been here in Uganda, I’ve felt the Lord squeezing my heart and saying “Slow down.”
I was told by my missionary hosts to pick my day of Sabbath and guard it with my life. They knew that my people at university would be inviting me to about 37 events every single day and that I would need to say no or I'd go crazy. Fun fact: they were totally right (and I don’t think it’s any accident that I’m living with them).
I have never, in all of my days, intentionally planned a day of rest. So a couple of weeks ago when I found myself alone, doing things that I wanted to do, celebrating life-giving things like listening to worship and reading a book that I wasn't going to be tested on...it was terrible. I felt so incredibly guilty for not going out and engaging with students. Didn't God call me here to work the harvest? Didn't people financially support me so that I would go out into the world and make a difference? Shouldn't I spend every waking moment doing adventurous things that I can't do in Tennessee? By the end of the day I was swirling down a deep pit of anxiety, guilt, and depression. This is not the rest that I thought it would be.
Those thoughts are SO NOT BIBLICAL!
I've been loaned a book written by Walter Brueggemann called "Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of NOW." I'm not finished with it yet, but it has so far been the most convicting and challenging book I've ever read (aside from the Bible, where certain chapters have me in fits of nervous laughter).
The book talks about the God of the First Commandment, the God who delivered His people out of Egypt. The Israelites spent many years grinding away for the the benefit of the Egyptian pharaoh, who was relentless in his pursuit of wealth. In contrast, God, all-knowing, all-powerful, chose to take a day of rest after He created the heavens and the earth. He certainly didn't need to rest, but He chose to so as to set an example for us. In the first three commandments, God sets Himself apart from other gods, and in the fourth, He introduces Sabbath. The final six commandments refer to relationships with other people, encouraging us to be good neighbors. Brueggemann says:
"Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives."
It is a choice that we must consciously make to rest. If we, as believers, truly want to stand apart from worldliness and embrace holiness, we must say "no" to the material, economical, productive, competitive, commodity-based society we live in. We have to trust God that our long to do list will get done another day. We have to trust creation to provide on the days where we set down our plows and fix our gazes heavenward. We have to believe that the God we serve is not a Pharaoh, but a Father who is committed to having a relationship with us.
We don't have to be frantic or driven or stressed or anxious or threatened or competitive. We can be rested and content and confident and serene and secure and peace-filled.
I'm obviously still working on making this heart knowledge, but I hope that you will join me in trying to resist our commodity culture and begin to make decisive choices to rest in the confidence of the Lord. After all:
"Sabbath is not simply a pause. It is an occasion for reimagining all of social life away from coercion and competition to compassionate solidarity."
Jesus, you are so generous to hold these hands you've made, even in the moments when I struggle to listen. Help me replace the striving with sweetness, the restlessness with resistance, and the guilt with gratitude. Help me rest in your presence. Amen.
*Please pray for myself and Jade as we travel to Buvuma Island this week. Far from an oasis vacation, this place in Lake Victoria houses orphans and provides them with an education.
*WGM: Uganda leadership structure is changing to a constellation where multiple people will divide responsibilities. Please pray for the new team of leaders as they transition over the course of the next month.
*Please pray for the finances of each of the ministries in Uganda. Some are overflowing and others are struggling, so simply pray that God would open the storehouses.
*Please pray for the students at Heritage and UDM, that the Lord would take what they learned at retreat/camp and use it to develop deep roots in their hearts.