It’s startling how much I define my identity based on what I’ve accomplished in a day, on the tangible evidence I have to show for myself by the time I turn in for bed.
God designed a day of rest to be the antidote to this frenetic appeal to define our worth by what we produce. Each week I hear the Sabbath whispering in my ear, reminding me that I’m loved because I’m a child of God, not because I crossed four things off my to-do list.
On a Sunday a while back, my hubby was sick—the first time he’d had anything more devilish than a cold since I’ve known him. He’s the hardworking, highly active type, riding circles around me (literally! on his bicycle!), so it was disorienting to see him flat on his back for a week, ingesting nothing but Sprite and the occasional Ritz cracker.
But perhaps the bigger surprise was how I responded to the sick day. I should have seen it as a gentle nudge from on high, reminding me that this was the day to slow down. But I was antsy that the day was slipping by, that the laundry was piling up, that my in-box was filling up with unread messages. And for most of the afternoon, I confess that I did not rest. In body or in soul.
Later that evening, when I saw my husband piled under blankets, eyes glazed, I realized I had a chance to redeem what was left of the Sabbath. And so I pulled out the newspaper—the old-fashioned kind with paper and ink—and read it out loud to him (even those tedious NBA box scores, which flies in the face of productivity if anything ever did). Then I sat in my big comfy chair and cozied up with a cup of tea and a book I was reading—not for any of the three book clubs I’m in, but simply out of sheer delight.
It felt dizzying and terrifying and, to my surprise, even sacred.
The church Fathers often spoke of Otium Sactum, “holy leisure.” It refers to a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves. With our tendency to define people in terms of what they produce, we would do well to cultivate “holy leisure.”
—Richard Foster, A Celebration of Discipline