Resting on Sundays

Theoretically, I’m a big believer in “observing the Sabbath.” I’ve read books about it, written articles about it (“No Shopping on Sundays“) and tried to implement various practices such as not using our household appliances on Sundays. I believe the Sabbath is a gift and a responsibility–a gift that allows us to stop working, and a responsibility not to ask others to work on our behalf.

But I have a really hard time resting. Even on Sundays.

I come by it naturally. I watch my mother at her beach house. She sits down in a lounge chair with a book. Two minutes later, she’s up, tending her garden or remembering another project in the wings. And I watch my mother chastise her mother (my grandmother, age 89) as she hops out of a rocking chair to get someone a towel or a hat or a glass of ice water.

Most Sundays we go to church in the morning and then come home and take a family nap. Once everyone awakens, we take a walk or play in the front yard or something like that. But I realized this past weekend that those activities provide structure for me. They even provide a sense of accomplishment and achievement. I went to church. Check. I caught up on some sleep. Check. I played with my children. Check.

But actual rest? Unproductive, what-on-earth-do-I-do-with-myself rest? That’s a bigger challenge.

This past Sunday we couldn’t go to church. Penny and William both came down with coxsackie virus, an unfortunate illness that causes fevers at first and then, once your kids are feeling just fine, produces blisters in the throat and rashes on the hands and feet. Peter was away for the weekend and we were quarantined. So we didn’t go to church and although William and Marilee napped, Penny insisted upon a quiet time, so I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping.

There I was, on a Sunday afternoon, with 45 minutes. What would it mean to rest for 45 minutes?

I pulled out my Bible and journal, but I soon realized that reading and praying was just one more task I could accomplish. I could read a magazine, a novel… I thought about the dishes in the sink, the unfolded laundry, the unmade bed. I tried to ignore them. For all of five minutes, I read. But my list of tasks overwhelmed me and I hopped up to write a few egregiously overdue thank you notes. Soon enough, Penny’s quiet time was over. I had been given the gift of rest, but I hadn’t been able to receive it.

So Pen and I went downstairs together. We sat on the couch and I read her Bread and Jam for Frances. Then we decided to do flash cards together. She sounded out some words and proclaimed her knowledge of some others: “Car!” We read another story. And we did a floor puzzle. Soon enough, Marilee and William woke up and the house teetered on the edge of chaos once again. But somehow those moments with Penny had given me a Sabbath, a time and place where my body relaxed and my spirit drank deep from the one of the joys of God’s creation–our daughter.

Peter will be home next weekend. We’ll resume the routine of church and naptime and family time. Hopefully, in time, I’ll learn the deep rest offered by God. For now, I’m grateful for the gift of snuggling with my daughter and resting in the joy of who she is.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. I really think that the problem you’re probably having is with your definition of rest. I see rest as anything that makes me come from a time feeling rejuvenated and peaceful and a little calmer than I was before. I mean, I wouldn’t consider working out to do that (though some people claim that it helps them feel rejuvenated haha), but I don’t think that family nap and family play time is not restful, even if it’s a pattern every Sunday. I think different people probably define rest in different ways. For some people lying a couch may be laziness, though it looks like rest to someone else.

    I think you’ve hit on something though, at the end there. I think maybe rest has more to do with your thought life than your actions. If you’re allowing your to-do list to constantly be crowding into your time of relaxation, then that’s probably something to address.

    • Margaret–thanks. I don’t think it’s bad to consider the nap and family play time as restful–as you say, they are. And yet I realized when I didn’t have those times ahead of me that I didn’t know what to do with myself!

  2. I really think that the problem you’re probably having is with your definition of rest. I see rest as anything that makes me come from a time feeling rejuvenated and peaceful and a little calmer than I was before. I mean, I wouldn’t consider working out to do that (though some people claim that it helps them feel rejuvenated haha), but I don’t think that family nap and family play time is not restful, even if it’s a pattern every Sunday. I think different people probably define rest in different ways. For some people lying a couch may be laziness, though it looks like rest to someone else.

    I think you’ve hit on something though, at the end there. I think maybe rest has more to do with your thought life than your actions. If you’re allowing your to-do list to constantly be crowding into your time of relaxation, then that’s probably something to address.

    • Margaret–thanks. I don’t think it’s bad to consider the nap and family play time as restful–as you say, they are. And yet I realized when I didn’t have those times ahead of me that I didn’t know what to do with myself!


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