In a moment of parental weakness, I caved and said yes to a gerbil. I’m still not sure how it happened, but today, we (or our kids) are the proud owners of a gerbil named “Ginger.” To this day, I have refused to hold her – she is a bit too much like a mouse for my liking. But I have watched her clock a lot of miles in her plastic wheel. She runs relentlessly, seemingly indifferent to the fact she is not really going anywhere. Round and round she goes – burning energy likes it’s nobody’s business.
I hate to admit it, but as a husband, father, and pastor, there are a lot of days (or maybe weeks and months) that I feel like I am running, running, and running.
The “wheel” is relentless and the busyness is maddening.
Do you know the feeling? Have you ever just wanted to push the pause button? Step off the treadmill? And breathe? The mix of marital commitments, expectations at work, demands at home, and parental responsibilities can be exhausting! If we’re not careful a life of busyness can easily lead to burnout – especially when there are no boundaries.
Each season of life requires a different strategy. With kids in the house, there is a need to see and steward time differently. Self-neglect and sacrifice become a way of life for most couples when kids come along. But self-neglect, if sustained, will starve a marriage. A couple must work hard to build boundaries, finding rest and strength to keep love alive. This does not happen by accident. It takes wisdom and intention.
In the Old Testament, God provided a solution. It was called Sabbath – A day of rest. The Sabbath was like a little reward wrapped in time. Throughout Israel’s history, God would continually remind Israel of not only the responsibility to keep the Sabbath, but also the blessing.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-10)
It is worth noting that in Exodus, God connects Sabbath to creation, while in Deuteronomy, the Sabbath is connected to slavery.
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)
Commenting on this distinction in his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan makes this observation about rest and slavery in Israel’s history:
“To refuse Sabbath is in effect to spurn the gift of freedom. It is to resume willingly what we once cried out for God to deliver us from. It is choosing what we once shunned.
Slaves don’t rest. Slaves can’t rest. Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest. Rest, it turns out, is a condition of liberty…Sabbath is a refusal to go back to Egypt.”
Does your schedule ever feel like Pharaoh? Do you ever feel enslaved because you are overcommitted? If you answered yes, you are not alone. This Sabbath connection in Deuteronomy was meant to be a reminder that there is freedom in rest.
Working hard and being busy doesn’t have to mean slavery.
There is a way to build into our lives boundaries that free us from the grind “Egypt” offers us.
In the New Testament, Jesus says that, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Jesus is telling us the Sabbath was meant to be a gift to us.
Rest is a blessing, and not a burden, to be obeyed.
It’s not so much about the day as much as it is the principle of finding balance in the busyness of life.
Like most couples, it’s easy to get caught up in doing too much. The busyness and burnout then trickles down from our marriages and into our family life. If you are feeling the burden of busyness, here are a few questions to consider that may help you find greater balance:
- What do we need to say “No” to right now?
- As a husband and wife, are we making time alone a priority?
- Is there a day we can take to “disconnect” and just be together as a family?
- How many sports or extra curricular activities will we allow our kids to be involved in during a year?
- Are we busy because we are trying to compete or compare ourselves to others?
- What core values do we need to protect as a family? Dinner together? Vacation? Family devotions? Etc.?