“And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” - Genesis 2:3
Recently, as I did rounds on the various floors of the hospital, I asked a nurse how things were going on her unit. “We’ve had five new admissions tonight. I haven’t had a break in hours,” she responded quickly, before turning back to her computer screen. She looked very tired, but she said it with a confident smile, as if she were bragging. In our culture, where multitasking is such a prized skill and busyness is seen as a virtue, she very well may have been proud. Slowing down is seen as a weakness in such a fast-paced society.
Yet, in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, this is exactly what God did. God, the one and only, created everything that is, and then very deliberately set aside a period of time specifically for rest. Why? Did the Almighty really need a break? Perhaps. Or perhaps this was, like so many other things God does in holy writings, a teachable moment. It could be an example for us humans to follow. From the very beginning, God saw that in our ambitious drive to get ahead, we would overwork ourselves to the breaking point. By instituting the Sabbath, God was trying to build in a safeguard against that human tendency.
As Americans, we do not do Sabbath very well. Many of us work through our break times, don’t take our vacation days, or spend our “days off” catching up on work at home, because there is just too much to be done. We applaud those who work sixty hours a week or more, instead of telling them they need to slow down. It is a dangerous mistake to ignore our need for rest and relaxation. Physically, it can lead to numerous health problems and sets us up for burnout. And perhaps most importantly, it points to a belief somewhere within us that we are too important for things to go on without us. “If I leave my desk for fifteen minutes, if I’m out of the office tomorrow, if I’m on vacation for a week, this place would fall apart,” we seem to be silently saying. Surely if even God could take a day off, we can admit that we are not above the need to do the same.
God, thank you for not being ashamed to rest. We needed that example, though it is hard for us to follow sometimes. Give us the strength to be honest with ourselves and others about our own limits, and to take the time to take care of ourselves so that we will have something left to share with the world. Help us see the gift of rest. Amen.-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent