Q. Life is too busy. We are constantly under time pressure to get chores done, go some where, and do something. I yearn for time alone, time to unwind and time to enjoy my family. We seem to only achieve rest and relief while on vacation. How can we lessen our busyness and stress?
A. “I’m too busy” seems to be a universal refrain in today’s world. We’re so overwhelmed by the demands and activities of each day that life doesn’t feel easy, pleasant or peaceful. We long to be calm and serene like Mary but we’re more like busy Martha. Some people even take pride in busyness, perhaps feeling important because of it. Our society pushes and pressures us in this direction and has convinced us that “down time” is wasted. But is it?
If we are spending our days in frantic effort with no time to for rest, joy, serenity, or even fun - what are our priorities? Have we lost sight of what is most important in life?
Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath: Remembering the Sacred Rhythm of Rest and Delight, suggests we have forgotten the Sabbath. The Hebrew word for Sabbath is “Shabbat” and means to stop, to rest. Most faiths prescribe some period of time each week dedicated to worship, singing, giving thanks, sharing meals and resting. It’s a time for being nurtured and renewed. It’s a time to let go of work and responsibilities. It's time to seek the peace of God.
Mueller suggests that “rest is not just a psychological convenience; it is a spiritual and biological necessity.” If we’re sleep deprived and exhausted we’re not effective in any area of our life. Rest enables us to meet the demands of life with joy and ease and this improves our effectiveness in our work as well as in our relationships.
We don’t want to return to the legalistic or routine keeping of the Sabbath as our parents or grandparents observed it, but we can make the decision to find time for rest and for prayer. Our Sabbath rest can be an hour, an afternoon or a holy day. Many other activities will tempt you from your plan. Modern life seduces us away from Sabbath rest if we let it.
Here are some ways to create Sabbath rest.
1. Reevaluate your beliefs and goals. Talk over with your family how you will make time for Sabbath rest. List the values you follow and the ones you would like to follow. Share these with your family. Change your activity schedule based on these values.
2. Give thanks before meals. This can be a meaningful time of connection for the whole family. You can also give thanks when you first wake up in the morning before you even get out of bed and at night before you fall asleep. Prayer and thanksgiving are restful activities that remind us of our blessings and connect us with Almighty God.
3. Pause during the day, take three deep breaths and pray or meditate. Tie this to some regular activity such as every time you stand up or sit down.
4. Pamper yourself. Take a nap or a leisurely bath. Both are good for your health. You don’t have to feel guilty about relaxing.
5. Turn off the TV and the telephone during dinner. Create a regular period of uninterrupted time with your family and with yourself.
6. Take time for worship on a regular basis. It will restore your soul.
One of my favorite hymns says: “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God, a place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God.“ When we draw near to God he draws near to us.
“Come to me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 NLT