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Subversive Rest

Kylie and I have been practicing a weekly Sabbath for the last four years. For us, this means resting from our work, delighting in things that give us joy, and worshipping God both as a family and individually. This looks like slow mornings (with good coffee), playing with our two girls, singing worship songs, going to Forrest Park, eating good food (with something sweet of course!), mountain biking, reading, etc. 

Sabbath (for us) also means disconnecting from technology, making our meals the day before, letting the dishes pile up, saying ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ to our girls, no shopping, etc. Sounds great, doesn’t it? 

Actually Sabbath is the most difficult spiritual discipline/practice for me. Yep, I’d rather fast from food for the day! I find it extremely difficult to slow down. In particular, slowing down my mind. I’m always analyzing something in my mind, and turning it off is not easy.

Resting our body, soul, and mind once a week is a subversive practice. Why? There are many reasons, however two immediately come to mind: 

First, we constantly entertain ourselves. 

Most of us, myself included, are completely addicted to our phones. If you’re in denial just look at your ‘screen time’ on your phone. Or try to go a day without your phone. Heck, just try a few hours! I try to do this every week and, without fail, I will instinctively reach for my phone, to check if I have any new texts or emails, not to mention seeing what’s going on in the sports world. Sad, I know. 

This is low hanging fruit, but goodness, we can’t even sit around a table with family and friends without checking our phones. I won’t ever forget during one of our House Fellowship groups a few years ago someone checking their phone, secretly, under the table. What were they doing? Scrolling through Instagram! Ironically, a platform marketed for helping us stay better connected, that has only disconnected us from those directly in front of us. Physically present, yet mentally in another place. 

Our entertainment addiction, which can never really be quenched, is slowing killing our ability to take delight in the small and ordinary. It also distracts us from what’s actually going on in our souls; because if we slow down and abstain from entertainment, even for a day, we may not be able to handle or cope with our inner life. 

Second, we find our identity in what we do and accomplish. 

Many of us fail to stop and rest because our identity is in what we do and accomplish. Hence the saying, “You are what you do.” This is why one of the first questions we ask someone we don’t know is, “What do you do?” It is a quick way to socially “size someone up”. There are professions we look valuably on and others we look down on. This is different for every person, however, it’s usually tied to wealth. We Americans love stories of hardworking people who have gone from rags to riches. 

This is not only tied to our work life. Whether it’s someone who is athletic, musical, artistic, or intelligent, we are impressed with people for what they ‘do’. We are rarely impressed with someone who is extremely kind or a loyal friend. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Mother Teresa, although I’d still argue we are more impressed with what she did, not who she was! In general, we overlook who people are, for what people do.  

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting what we do is not important. Nor am I saying hard work is not important. I want to suggest that finding our identity outside the person of Jesus will inevitably let us down. What happens when we’re not successful, don’t accumulate wealth, get fired or let go, get passed up for the promotion, aren’t athletic or musical enough? The list could go on. 

Sabbath rest is subversive because it helps us detached from things that distract us from Jesus and helps us established our identity in Jesus and who we are in Him. Our being (love of God/neighbor) should overflow into our doing. 

This is already way to long a post for what I wanted to say! So I’m going to move on to the point… 

The reason I’m writing this is because this month our family is taking 2.5 weeks of rest. We are fortunate to be spending time with family in Colorado and then the rest of our time in STL detaching from our work. 

This may sound like a justification post! But it’s our family’s attempt to re-center ourselves on Jesus, allowing Him to be God, and to find our identity in him, recognize our limits, to envision for the coming year, and to have FUN! We have been through a lot the past year and a half and want to set rhythms in place for a lifetime of ministry. We don’t want to be just another pastor that has succumbed to burnout. We want to live faithful lives of the gospel. 

Please pray for us; that we will find time to detach from technology and things that simply numb us for ourselves and Jesus AND for us to recenter ourselves on Jesus and his call on our lives so that we can be ready to do the work ahead of us. 

July 2022

Anthony is an Inspire Missioner church planting in St Louis, Missouri. Read more about HERE

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