“For so he giveth his beloved sleep…”
Our Sunday School teacher reads the words, and I literally laugh out loud with a snort. Let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling all too holy that morning.
Once again, our special-needs five-year-old is in a disregulated phase, resulting in freakishly early mornings for this tired mom.
For the last eight weeks, our class had been studying the book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. It has been an interesting class full of some riveting class discussions. This week, we were talking about role of Sabbath rest in the life of the believer. I love our church because we can talk about the benefit of established traditions while still exploring modern-day practicalities for Christian living.
And so, I laughed.
We delved into some of the purposes behind the Sabbath tradition. Rest. Worship. Community. Self care. (To name a few.)
Someone brought up how the Sabbath served as a reminder to the Old Testament believers of God’s provision, as God would multiply their food so they did not have to prepare it on the Sabbath. For the first time, I wondered…
Did God also make their children sleep?!?!?!
How could these people wandering around the wilderness care for their active Israeli children when there were rules about how much they could lift and what they could do? What about changing blowout poopy diapers?
Alas, I have no answers. So, when it came time for questions and discussions on the topic of Sabbath rest, I raised my hand and blurted out the following question:
“So, can we just talk for a minute about practicality here? I mean, I have two very active boys were up at 5:45 and 6:30 this morning. Sunday is a day of work for us. I’d really like to hear from some of the other parents on how you actually make rest happen on Sundays.”
The teacher, a father of four littles himself, nodded and smiled. “You know, that’s a really good question…” he affirmed.
The ensuing discussion was helpful. I already knew the answer. The feedback from others only confirmed it.
The truth is that tired moms have to take rest where they can get it. In snippets here and there. Throughout the week. One gentleman whose wife works a healthcare job every other weekend said how his wife makes Tuesday her day of rest. Another mother of grown children (who, ironically, admitted that she has a hard time remembering her children’s childhood!), stated how it’s a good idea to institute quiet times for children.
Again, I found myself laughing slightly. For EVERY SUNDAY since Ezra was a wee one have we had afternoon quiet time. We come home from church, we eat lunch, and we send him to his room. And EVERY SUNDAY he resists, fights, whines, complains, and comes out of his room 15 million times in the span of an hour. (Okay, I exaggerate…a little.) So let’s just say that that is a fabulous idea in theory, but as she even capitulated, “That might be easier for some kids than it is for others.”
And all the mothers said, “Amen.”
I again spoke up and said this:
“To answer my own question, over the last few years I have really focused on making self-care a priority. I try to make sure that, several times a week, I get time away from my kids and time to rest. I also try to make sure I have days where I don’t go anywhere, because if I have to go somewhere every single day, I get very overwhelmed.”
That’s really the best a mom can do.
Our teacher quoted from Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick. The quote comes from a section describing the harpooning of whales. The crew would row as hard and fast as they could, then the “headsman” (aka harpooneer dude) would jump up from rowing to make his best attempt at striking the death blow to the whale while in motion. Melville criticized this practice with these words:
…this is both foolish and unnecessary. The headsman should stay in the bows from first to last; he should both dart the harpoon and the lance, and no rowing whatever should be expected of him, except under circumstances obvious to any fisherman. I know that this would sometimes involve a slight loss of speed in the chase; but long experience in various whalemen of more than one nation has convinced me that in the vast majority of failures in the fishery, it has not by any means been so much the speed of the whale as the before described exhaustion of the harpooneer that has caused them.
To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.
In other words, if you do a difficult and crucial job that requires accuracy and efficiency, it doesn’t do anyone any good for you to try to do that job when you are exhausted. Even if it means loss of speed.
As mothers, I believe we do one of the most difficult and crucial jobs that exists. It requires much of us. We run ourselves ragged at breakneck paces trying to do ALL THE THINGS and deny ourselves rest. Ultimately, the toil wears on us and actually interferes with us doing the best job that we could be doing.
Erica from Let Why Lead sent out an encouraging email to her subscribers last night. It said the following:
It never used to feel like I needed so much downtime.
The breaking point that I’m so familiar with now was a distant concern when I was younger.
The difference, of course, is simple: Before diving head first into family life, downtime was built in.
I found it without even looking for it.
I found it when I’d walk home from my college campus, snow crunching under my feet and my breath coming in white puffs of steam.
I found it when I’d study in the library, with no one to occupy my head space but myself and the ancient Romans I was reading about.
I found it as my feet pounded a steady rhythm on the treadmill—back in the days before I started stalking the window of the gym’s childcare to make sure my baby wasn’t crying.
Now, though, quiet time is much harder to come by. I have to grab for it like a chubby-handed toddler reaching for candy.
I know I don’t have to spell it out for you, because likely, you’re right in the middle of it too.
But I do think it’s important to recognize the connection.
We need solitude and rejuvenation in order to balance out the chaos of family life.
I have good friends and family members who are running themselves ragged meeting everyone’s needs. I want to remind them to be sure they’re meeting their own.
So today, I’m reminding you.
“It is in stillness that we save and transform the world.” Eckhart Tolle
And so, yesterday, I attended a 70-minute “restorative yoga” class at the YMCA. I was the youngest person in the class, by at least a decade. But as I lay there on my mat, focusing on my breathing, I felt a gentle whisper say, “This is your Sabbath rest.”
When I flop my weary body down into bed at 9:45 PM rather than staying up to watch “just one more” episode of NCIS, this is my Sabbath rest.
When I lie on the couch at 5 AM, cuddled in a fleece blanket with my Octonauts-watching 5-year-old tucked into the boat between my legs and the couch, scrolling on Facebook mindlessly while trying to infuse myself with morning coffee, this is my Sabbath rest.
When I make the effort to get two kids ready for childcare so that I can sit in the noisy lobby of the YMCA and drink a cup of hot coffee without anyone needing anything from me, this is my Sabbath rest.
When I sprawl out on the backseat of my minivan on therapy days, watching Netflix while my baby crawls around on the van looking for stale Cheerios and Goldfish to snack on, this is my Sabbath rest.
When I take a moment to practice mindfulness or deep breathing during a moment of severe distress or frustration rather than yelling and screaming, this is my Sabbath rest.
When I pop that little green pill that has brought my anxiety levels down to a manageable level, this is my Sabbath rest.
When I sit on the couch in my counselor’s office and talk her ear off at a mile a minute because I’m frantically trying to make every moment count while my baby is at Parents Morning Out and then I realize what I’m doing and I force. my. self. to. slow. down., this is my Sabbath rest.
When I lie down on the couch with Dr. Suess books to read to my son, and it’s really more about lying on the couch than being that-good-mom-who-reads-to-her-kids, this is my Sabbath rest.
When my kids are with a sitter while I’m on my way to a doctor’s appointment, and I lean into the solitude rather than switching on the radio, this is my Sabbath rest.
Dear Tired Moms:
This is imperative. You must keep your eyes open to see the opportunities for rest that the Father is trying to offer you. You must remain aware of your reserves at all times. You must be creative and ingenious. You must be jealous of your time. You must learn to say, “No, I will not do that,” and “I need help.” You must take the time and initiative to gather a village around you so you have people in your corner to help you find your Sabbath rest. You must resist the urge to pick up your phone or turn on the radio. You must breathe…really breathe, the life you are living.
This is your Sabbath rest.