Throughout this first week of Lent, I have tried to help us set the context for practices that can help us return to God with all our hearts in the coming weeks. In this final reflection for the week, I want to propose a type of practice which may seem unusual, but of which I believe many of us are in desperate need. What if, this Lent, you set a spiritual goal of getting enough rest? Many of us have become accustomed to being so tired that we've forgotten what it feels like to be fully rested. This is often tied to a misconception, thinking that our bodies are disconnected from our spiritual lives. That idea is very prevalent among Christians, but–wherever it comes from–it doesn't come from the Bible.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God continually emphasized the importance of rest in the lives of his people. Rest is a concrete way that we learn to trust God and to express our dependence upon him. This has primarily been practiced through the centuries as God's people have observed a sabbath day each week to rest from our work, worship God for his steadfast love toward us, and engage in activities that delight and refresh us. As one of my favorite authors, James Bryan Smith, says, we can't do anything worthwhile spiritually if we're exhausted.
So, here is a brief list of things you might consider if setting a goal of getting enough rest seems inviting to you this Lent:
- If you tend to stay up too late, set three bedtimes for yourself: an ideal bedtime, an okay bedtime, and an "anything later than this is unacceptable" bedtime. Then, as you go to rest each night, think of it as a spiritual practice, helping you to express your trust in God that he can take care of the things that were not accomplished in the day.
- Determine that, for this Lent, you won't stay late at work.
- Set aside a 24-hour period each week this Lent during which your goal is not to be distracted, but to pay attention to those who are with you. You might start this 24 hours in the evening, as you share a slow meal with family or friends. You'll probably find it very helpful (though difficult) turn off your cell phone. Take a break from e-mail and internet, even all media if possible. Go to bed at a good time that evening, being free of the usual distractions. Either verbally or through writing, affirm to someone else their importance in your life.
- Another way we can rest is to intentionally take a break from thinking about things we don't have and, instead, give thanks to God for all of the ways that he has provided for us so faithfully. This might mean cutting back on shopping and increasing your generosity. Or perhaps you would simply want to choose to live with the mindset this Lent: "I have enough." As we do so over time, we find that our gratitude and our ability to trust God with our needs increases.
- If you're interested in reading more of my thoughts about ways we can enjoy a practice of making a sabbath, see these two articles: "Something I Really Want but Haven't Learned Yet" and "Sabbath's Good, Slow Work in Us".
A Prayer for the Day:
Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*
A Prayer for the Week:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer
[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]