Fuel for your Empty Tank

Do you feel like you get enough rest? At the end of the day/week, do you feel sucked dry or invigorated? What energizes you or breathes life into you?

If you’re anything like me, these are questions I don’t really think about until I am inevitably in the spaces of not enough rest or totally sucked dry… And for the month of May, being a mom and working in a school (one step down from the double whammy of being an educator and parent during the month of May), you could surely answer the first two for me.  And the last one?  Well, I have no time to ponder that right now, right!?

These questions were actually posed to me during a discipleship training program in which I took part a few years ago. I knew where they were going with it.  I saw the next question come flying at me…

Do you honor the Sabbath?

I knew what the answer should be.  Unfortunately, my answer was simply, no. And at the time I thought my reasons were completely validated. After all, I was serving at church Sunday morning to the early afternoon.  And then I needed to get things done at home in preparation for the week.  I squeezed in moments of rest when I could.  I quickly learned that day that I was not honoring God, and really doing myself and my family an injustice.  Not only that, the Sabbath as I knew it was about to be flipped on its head!

As Christians, we often view our work responsibilities as diligently putting our hand to the plow and then we view a Sabbath day as a time of rest from our hard work.  Our model is God’s seven days of creation, where He works six and then rests. (Genesis 2:2) And He certainly deserved it; but as if He needed it, right? He’s God.  Did he really need rest? And I never really examined or questioned that before.  It was not because He was tired and needed a break.  What if it was because He wanted to model for His children how we might approach our work more effectively?

God created man, Adam, on Day 6.  Adam’s first day was Day 7.  Adam’s first day was a day of rest.  Adam approached his first week with rest first.  This was a whole new notion to me — to consider resting before working so that my work comes from abiding in Him, not a depleting resource from a strictly human effort.  While work/rest or rest/work can on the surface seem like six to one and half dozen to another, it was quite radical to me. We don’t do our thing then ask God to restore us from our hard labor that was accomplished on our own.  Our restoration instead is allowing the space and time to abide in Christ, and inviting the presence of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us fully so that we can go out and do our work with grace, anointing, and power all week.

Work from rest.  I liked it!

Now, to find space for that rest…

Our Heavenly Father actually commanded we use this Sabbath day because it is so very important to how we are designed by Him to live our lives.  In Exodus 34:21, He commanded, “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.  In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” (Sound familiar?  It’s #4 of the Ten Commandments, and the longest commandment with the most qualification, I might add.)

Close family friends of ours decided that they would honor the Sabbath on Saturday, and they challenged our small group to do the same. As part of honoring that day, the family decided that they would open their house each Saturday morning and have a ‘come as you are’ breakfast. This was a time where our families came together, shared about how God was working in our lives the past week, and shared any prayer requests for the week ahead. There was accountability for honoring this day with rest as everyone shared what their plans were for their Sabbath days.  This became a rhythm for all families in our group and as a result, the kids too were seeing the model of a God-centered community and what it looked like to work from rest.

Influenced by our friends and other growing families around us, our family knew we needed to get better about this discipline. In turn, we decided that we would honor the Sabbath on Saturday as well, realizing Sundays did not feel very restful at all…getting up early for church, rushing out of the house, volunteering, and often attending meetings and such.

Our family worked to honor a Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, similar to the Jewish tradition.  Once we identified the day, I was all about focusing on exactly what our Sabbath day would and would not look like—and planning how we would spend time as a family on that Sabbath each week.  However, I quickly learned that what was life breathing to me was not the same as my husband or my kids. My “rest” looked very different from theirs. And rest was a LOT harder for me!  Therefore, as a family, we needed to discuss what “rest” felt like to each of us, and how we might build that into our Sabbath so that we each got the rest we needed while honoring the day as a family.  Most importantly, we needed to invite God into this day.

Over the years, we have certainly fallen prey to getting busy and neglecting our rest, but it is a rhythm our family greatly misses if we are not intentional and consistent. We know we need to work to keep an open dialogue around what fuels us, holding each other accountable for rest.

Sabbath allows us margin, which is critically needed if we want to continue to grow spiritually. When I have no margin, how might I respond when crisis hits? With no margin, how do I have capacity to grow?  With no margin, how might I have space to listen and be available for others? You get the picture…

God speaks to me often through others.  When I was recently invited into a 10-day devotion with some girlfriends, entitled “Holy Hustle: 10 Days to Embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life”, I knew God was nudging me about our family’s Sabbath.”Rest Well” jumped out at me and I find myself examining how well (or unwell) I am resting and how we desperately need that solid rhythm back. While now may feel like the worst time, with the end-of-school, summer-prep madness that ensues, that is exactly why it is the best time to get back on track.

Scripture reminds me that God gives us solid direction on using our time wisely.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Ephesians 5:15-17 So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Maintaining a regular rhythm of allowing my (often emptied) self to be fueled with the Holy Spirit equips Him to use me.  I can’t think of a better, more focused way of getting refueled than by regularly honoring the Sabbath.

Please pray with me. Lord, I thank you that you crafted the perfect model of resting and working, and I’m sorry that I do not always honor that. I pray you help me and my family to honor it by protecting our time, and blessing it as we give that time to you. Help me to abide in you and not in my endless to-do lists. Thank you for your word and your example. In Jesus’ name I pray.


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