You are doing a great job!
That is all good in theory isn’t it? It’s easy for me to say right? It’s easy for me to say when I don’t know what really goes on behind the closed doors of your house. It’s easy for me to say when your head hits the pillow every night wondering if what you did or didn’t do today has messed your kid up.
I can’t help but think that maybe all of us feel that way. Maybe every mother doubts herself. Maybe every mother has no idea what she is doing and is just trying to get through each day without screwing it up too badly! I know I often feel like that.
I also can’t help but recognise that that kind of life is tiring. It’s tiring to continually doubt, continually question and continually strive.
Do you know the biggest lesson I think every mother needs to learn?
That word feels like a bit of a swear word at times but let me explain how I came to discover the principle of rest.
It was a lesson I didn’t want and I certainly didn’t think I needed. I went into this lesson kicking and screaming.
You see, I am one of those people who thrives on pressure. I like having a full schedule and running from one thing to the next. I learnt how to multitask and have lots of plates spinning at the same time – it was my normal. I didn’t need rest.
When I had my two babies I didn’t even really stop to take maternity leave. I had my 12 weeks at home but while I was at home, I kept working. I ran a women’s conference when my youngest, Rocky, was 6 weeks old (I look back now and think I must have been crazy!!!) But it didn’t bother me. I just did what I knew, what I had always done.
Mentally I was charging, but my physical body told a different story.
My body had simply never recovered from pregnancy and child birth. As a result I ended up with a chronic infection that I couldn’t get rid of for five years. I went to a naturopath, doctors, specialists. I was on medication, supplements and diet restrictions.
I got to the point where I was tired. Really tired. All the time, eyes burning, brain foggy, can’t-sleep-it-off kind of tired.
My “high-capacity” thinking was telling me I was coping but my body was screaming at me for rest.
I didn’t need more medication or a magic pill. I didn’t need a new fad diet or a different supplement – I needed REST.
I’m not sure if you have ever reached the point of exhaustion before. But to me it felt like I was pouring water into a bucket filled with holes. I was busy working hard to fill my bucket but whenever the time came to give out to those around me I came up empty. I simply had nothing left to give.
And so I began my season of forced rest. Here is what I came to understand:
From a Sabbath Day to a Sabbath Life
In Leviticus God spends lots of time teaching Moses and the Israelites what type of people they will be. He wants to set them apart and make them into a new nation. So he sets them up with some particular instructions about how they are to live. One of the things he considered to be of utmost importance was what they called Holy Days. These were the days they were to keep sacred.
“This is to be a permanent statute for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month you are to practice self-denial and do no work, both the native and the alien who resides among you. Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must practice self-denial; it is a permanent statute. The priest who is anointed and ordained[e to serve as high priest in place of his father will make atonement. He will put on the linen garments, the holy garments, and make atonement for the most holy place. He will make atonement for the tent of meeting and the altar and will make atonement for the priests and all the people of the assembly. This is to be a permanent statute for you, to make atonement for the Israelites once a year because of all their sins.” Leviticus 16: 29 – 34 (CSB)
So let’s take a note of what is happening here. On the day when a Priest has to bring atonement for the sins of the people, God is saying to Israel – you need to stop working. It’s important that we recognise here the relationship between resting from work and atonement.
Let’s now head across to the new testament where Hebrews speaks about the idea that Jesus is now our High Priest.
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment— so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but[bto bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9: 24-28 (CSB)
Let’s just recap for a second, because if you are going to truly get rest you need to understand this truth.
Jesus is now our high priest – he makes atonement for us. And his atonement did what the day of atonement could not do. Jesus made a permanent atonement – ONCE, FOR ALL.
Which means that the permanent statute God instituted for his people about resting from their own work on that day of atonement has been replaced by a new permanent statute.
Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from his. Hebrews 4: 9-10 (CSB)
Are you getting this? We go from a sabbath day (resting from all work on a day of atonement), to a sabbath life (resting from all striving to receive the great gift of atonement).
Rest means to cease from our own work and celebrate his finished work.
Soul Living to Spirit Leading
In Leviticus it also tells us that rest/Sabbath looks like a “practice of self-denial”. When I looked that up I found that in other translations it includes the phrase: “Afflict your soul”. Well what on earth does that mean?
When we are speaking about your soul we are speaking about your mind, will, and emotions. It’s the “self” part of you. Your appetites and your passions.
Now the problem with our soul is that it causes us to be driven by these very things – we can too often be driven by our own emotions, ambitions, our will and our appetite. And that will always lead us to a place of striving. Driven by appetite and ambition.
But a true rest (or honouring of the sabbath) means to afflict you soul. Which means to oppress, deny, fast or humble those parts of your being. It means that we are no longer soul driven. We are not driven by our own desires and appetites.
True rest means allowing ourselves to be led by the spirit, not driven by the soul.
It means we transition from soul living to spirit living.
Soul living is led by me and it never achieves what the appetite of the soul wants it to achieve. Soul living is exhausting and weary.
Spirit living is led by the spirit and it is at rest from working, achieving, striving. It doesn’t attempt to achieve anything through it’s own strength and it’s own might.
Spirit living severs the connection between what I do and who I am.
Spirit living knows that who I am is connected more with who He is and His finished work on the cross.
Here is what I have discovered: If we want to be Spirit led we need more time in his word and more time in his presence. Our spirit needs to be given a louder voice than our soul.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
Now, go out there and live like you believe it.
Before you go! Let’s talk practicalities.
Here are some questions I think would benefit you to ask yourself:
- Do I have a Sabbath? A day when I don’t do anything that feels like work. (By the way, you need one of these weekly. )
- What am I doing currently that is draining me? (Putting holes in my bucket). It could be things outside of my gifting or just something/someone asking more of me that I have to give.
- What am I not currently doing that fills me?
- Do I have margin – room to breathe, room for the unexpected? Or am I living so close to the edge that anything could send me over?
- What do I need to ensure I am doing regularly to keep my margin plentiful?
- set an earlier bedtime?
- limit screen time, especially before bed?
- Time alone/time for you?
- Time having fun/relaxing/laughing/enjoying?
- Time with God?
- Time in the fresh air?
- Here is a big one: What am I currently saying yes to that I should be saying no to? Remember every time I say yes to one thing I am saying no to something else.