Monday, February 05, 2007

In Defense of a Lullaby

The creation account found in Genesis Chapter 1 reveals a God who is creative, analytical, purposeful and loving. Turning a cold, still void into a colorful prism of life, God engineered and sequenced the birth of natural existence with mind-blowing intricacy. Life-sustaining habitats preceded us. Consider the marriage of essentials with respect to Earth! From the composition of our planet and its atmosphere… to the tilt of Earth’s axis… the Moon… the shape of her orbit… and the perfect distance from the Sun.

Here we enjoy a “habitable zone”—not too hot and not too cold—a place in which life-essential liquid water flows. Were we marginally nearer the sun, we would burn up. Were we a bit farther away, we would freeze. We can complain about how cold it is in Texas all winter long, but, in reality, so long as the water’s not chunked up or boiling, we’ve got it pretty good.

We will have to get to heaven to understand the level of effort put forth when God forged existence. From a human perspective, we can relate to degrees of challenge. I can build a car out of Lego’s but would be hard pressed to assemble a Lexus. But in God’s economy, is everything effortless? The biblical account of creation shows us a process. A progression of events or “stages” culminating in what many popular translations of the Bible describe as a day of rest (Gn 2:2).

Did God need to rest? The Bible tells us God is inexhaustible (Isaiah 40:28). So what is this concept of rest as it relates to God?

Here it is helpful to go back in time. Where many English translations read that God took a day of “rest,” the original Hebrew word was “sabat,” which is translated “cease.” So the concept here is that God stopped creating on the seventh day. He had finished with the broad strokes that defined natural existence and He paused.

I’ve been thinking a lot about rest the past few months. There are a couple ways to try and understand why it is that God paused depending upon how you interpret Genesis 2:3. Whatever the reason, we know conclusively that He stopped. Though He is a tireless, eternal spirit who doesn’t need rest, He paused.

We, on the other hand, were created with mortal bodies that must rest. No one can stay awake for long periods without sleep and expect to maintain physical and mental health. We need a break from stress, as well.

When I heard about the popular pastors who’ve burned out, I prayed that God would sustain my own pastor and his staff. Enduring cancer has radically altered my own perspective on taking on too much. There’s compelling scientific evidence that stress—unrelenting pressure over long periods of time that keeps us constantly spinning and spiraling without respite—can, indeed, wreak havoc on the body and lead to disease.

Over the past year or so, I learned lots of new uses for a familiar word: “No.” It was hard to say at first. I had to practice in front of the mirror a few months to get it down pat. I still don’t like to say it. But I have what I believe to be a general direction in which God is leading my life. Defined priorities, if you will. I do what I can with diligence toward that end. But I no longer feel compelled to try and do it all. Because something will “drop,” and it could very well be something precious and important that goes down with a thud.

I have friends who are over-committed and under constant, siege-like pressure. Always doing for others and failing to care for themselves. You know who you are. I worry about you. I pray for you. I want you to rest. God stopped!

My mother prays every day for Todd and me… that we find rest. I’ve come to ever appreciate the love and wisdom behind that prayer. Because we need it. As the psalmist David, undergoing enemy assault and bodily suffering, said in a desperate appeal to God: “No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?” (Psalm 6:5) So good health sustains life which is obviously essential for ministry and worship in the here and now.

David sought God’s intervention here. He appealed to God for healing and potency. There have been times in which I felt that God infused me with energy needed to get a particular job done. He is our first line of defense and the one who ultimately sustains us in all things. But, day to day, I believe we, too, have a role to play in looking after our own health. It’s up to us to listen to our bodies and be sensitive to clues that our health might be at risk. In addition to prayer and fellowship with others, eating healthy, exercising, staying current on medical screenings, and maintaining a spirit of hope are all vitally important. As is rest.

Question for you today: Do you need rest?

Not Blaring (just peacefully streaming) on my I-Pod: More than This, by Roxy Music

(Photo by Brookesb; see for restrictions.)


Greg said...

Hi, Sarah.

Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents worth of an "amen" to what you said today about the need to rest and the need to say "no". While reading through the Gospels this last summer, I was struck with the fact that multiple times Christ said "no" to people that really were hurting and in need of healing. Something in His humanness/Godness (think I just made up a word!) allowed Him to know He needed to rest and get away from the very people He was there to save. Seems like if what we're called to do is be more Christ-like, then that part of Christ is something we should learn to be like as well.



Sarah Onderdonk said...

Well, there you have it. The case grows stronger! Excellent point made. Thanks, Greg.

I remember many years ago in the workforce having survived a corporate shake-up. A department went away and there were just a couple of us left. Budgets were slashed, we lost outside contractors, and the boat was taking on water. I remember a low point when Michael O’Malley, who died of colon cancer several years ago, pulled me aside. Michael was a genius and absolutely fearless. Some of you remember him. The gray-haired Irishman with the goofy knit ties and deafening laugh. He never minced words. He sat me down in his office and shook a craggy finger in my face and said, “You tell ‘em THIS. Aye can dance! Aye can paint! Aye can row a boat! But Aye can’t do all three a t’ONCE!” I've thought about that recently.

p.s. humanness/Godness is good communication... I know exactly what you mean!!

James Somers said...

Jesus said "the sabbath was created for man, not man for the sabbath."
He (God) clearly intends that we nourish our physical bodies with the rest that they need. This includes mental rest also. We need places in our lives that give us both! We must take a break from the physical work and the mental worries or all is for not.
Prayer is a wonderful place to relieve those worries! When we realize that God is in control and that if we will be obedient and trust Him (seeking first his kingdom and righteousness), then he has promised to take care of our NEEDS. Only then can we let go of the anxiety and have true rest in our spirits.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

James, yes. It all comes right back to God doesn't, it...