This past summer I decided to do something that felt radical for me. I took a break.
I’m not just talking about a vacation. I actually stopped working. I committed to four weeks of rest without deadlines, meetings, and other obligations. I realized my vision was growing cloudy while squinting at too many to-do lists and hoisting my fatigued body from bed each morning. I knew I was teetering on the edge of burnout and needed to slow my pace for a more extended time.
Some people call it a sabbatical. I call it an exhale. Sabbaticals have their roots in Christian tradition and Scripture. Leviticus 25:1-5 calls for the people of Israel to set aside the seventh year as a year of rest for the land. In the New Testament, Jesus modeled regular rest and solitude. He drew away from the crowds even when the needs around Him seemed to be pressing (Mark 6:45-46). He napped! (Luke 8:22-23). And Jesus chose to devote Himself to prayer instead of simply plowing through (Matthew 26:36).
The first week of my sabbatical I traveled with my family. The second week I slept. I didn’t realize how deeply fatigued my body was until I actually turned off my alarm and let myself sleep.
My last two decades have been filled with birthing babies, raising my three girls, investing in ministry, grieving the death of my first husband, and chasing demanding deadlines. Sleep too often came with anxiety, restless tossing, and mom guilt. I never gave myself real permission to rest.
During one of the weeks, my oldest daughter and I decided to drive up to Princess Campground just outside of Hume Lake in Sequoia National Park for some time off the grid while her younger sisters were off galavanting at summer camp. There in the woods, I felt God’s glory lean in close and begin to restore my tired soul.
From my perch at the picnic table, a cool breeze kissed my neck as my eyes followed up-up-up the trunk of a ponderosa pine. Her sage green branches swayed slightly like a woman wearing a feather boa, promenading across the velvet blue sky. Light streamed between the trunks of the trees. There was no music playing, but there seemed to be a symphony around me. I could hear the flutter of bird wings flapping, the whistle of the wind, and the punctuated play of two squirrels chasing each other down the path.
I saw God’s glory in the blue-crimson flames that danced over the logs of our campfire. I smelled His glory in the earthy scent of the forest, like a lingering cologne. I tasted His glory in the first bite of my s’more sandwich made with cinnamon graham crackers. I heard His glory whisper through unhurried conversations with my girl, who is just starting her senior year of high school and dreaming about the future.
Sometimes we need to create space for our minds to wander, for our hearts to grieve, and for meandering conversation with our people.
Back in Genesis, the Creation story reveals something intentional about God’s architectural plans for the world. He speaks the ocean, heavens, trees, flowers, birds, beasts, sun, moon, and stars into existence in the first five days. Then He takes the dust and sculpts a man, breathing life into him on the sixth day.
Genesis 2:2 tells us “he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (ESV).
That means the first day on earth for humans was actually a day of rest, not work. God created us to rest. Full stop. In rest, we are invited to delight in the garden, to create in community, to cook up feasts, and dare to dream. Our work then flows out of that rest.
On my sabbatical, I was reminded that rest helps us untether our souls from the hamster-wheel pace our culture glorifies. Rest helps us change our speed from striving and sprinting to slowing and noticing.
Rest highlights our idols and distractions and brings us back to the peace found only in our Creator’s arms.
Rest gives us time to abide in Christ rather than chase after the affirmation of others.
In a physical sense, rest is necessary for growth. If we want to build our muscles and endurance, our bodies need both stress and rest. Without resistance, our muscles atrophy or melt away as we age. I lift weights at the gym a few times a week to stress my muscles. This creates micro-tears, which signal the body to send good blood and good nutrition to that area. During rest days, the tiny tears heal and grow back stronger. Our muscles need time for recovery and regeneration — as do our souls.
Arranging my summer sabbatical took preparation. I had to do work in advance and say no to some good opportunities so I had space to rest. I had to discipline myself not to fill our calendar squares so I had unplanned hours and unscripted days. My brain and my body needed time to heal the micro-tears before they became injuries.
This time of sabbatical taught me how much I need space. My everyday harried, trying-to-multitask life leaves little margin to listen to God.
Friend, what about you? When is the last time you fully rested? Do you give your soul space to breathe? When have you granted yourself permission to grieve or take time away from the treadmill of productivity?
You might not have a month for a sabbatical, but you could carve out a weekend, a day, or even a few hours. Arrange for the babysitter. Book the campsite or the hotel. Mark off the time on your calendar, and protect it.
Our culture preaches that time is money and rest is a myth, but I’m starting to believe the unforced rhythms are actually the healing God intended for us from the beginning. Let’s embrace them. Let’s listen closely for the Spirit’s whisper and His voice in the wind.
Dorina helps women discover God’s glory in unexpected places. Subscribe to Dorina’s Glorygram here and follow her on Instagram for encouragement and glory resources.