My family and I just enjoyed a great week of holiday with my parents. We found a nice, basic place to stay in a park at the beach. No crazy activities, no hard music, not many people, just us and, most of the time, one of the pools all to ourselves. No computer, no phone calls. Time to read, play games, enjoy nature, rest in the shade and space for the boys to play outside. I realised it had been a very long time since we had had such a relaxed holiday and it felt much needed.
There are times when I long for a normal life. I’m not sure anymore if there is such thing as a normal life, but in my imagination, a normal life is living in your own culture, having clear working hours, being involved in church, having regular evenings off, seeing friends and family and enjoying a real weekend. I know that may be seem like utopia as even in our home country people are very busy. While on furlough it is really hard to make appointments with friends as their agendas are filled up weeks ahead of time.
As one of my friends was preparing for furlough I asked her if she is ready for it. Her answer was clear: “I am so ready for it.” As I meant the packing, she was not actually ready, but she was ready to be away for a while. Will her furlough be full of rest? No, it will be busy, but busy in another way. It felt so good to hear my feelings from someone else and know that I am not the only one with these feelings.
It made me realise again that it is good for me to rest and seek God’s rest regularly.
The Sabbath; a day to rest is a present from God to me. More often the do’s and don’ts are more emphasised than the rest. According to Mark 2:27 God created the Sabbath for our benefit. God even commanded the Israelites to give the land a year of rest after sowing and harvesting it for six years. Leviticus 26 states that during the exile of the Israelites the land would enjoy all the Sabbaths it did not get. It is a present! Every week we can receive this present from our Father. It is not about the law, it is not about rules; it is a present to enjoy. I want to remember this on my off day!
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.” – Exodus 20:9-10 (NIV)
I remember when our boys were younger you could just see their tiredness in everything they did, but they still didn’t want to go to bed. ‘I am not tired!’ But the moment they lay down, they slept. Even for us as adults, to rest can feel like a punishment or a sign of weakness.
But there is no need to feel like that. God Himself created a day to rest. He gave the example, He was the first One to carry this out. It always made me wonder…why? God did not really get tired, did He? Anyway, God wanted us to work and He wanted us to find rest in His presence.
As I was reflecting on this, my eyes were caught by what Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 6:31 “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (NIV)
Not just our bodies need rest, but our spirits do as well. It can take a lifetime to work on that. It is easy to sleep in on Saturday when we take the day off. But to rest in my spirit on a Saturday as so many things happen and family life continues is not easy. Turkey is the place where I want to be, where I feel home. But things never seem to go like we plan; we always have to be ready for the unexpected. I believe living cross-culturally is synonymous with ‘stress’ and it is a challenge to let go of stressful situations. But Jesus says in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)
God made the day of rest holy, He set it apart from the other days. For the Israelites, the Sabbath was part of the covenant with God. It was an everlasting sign between them and God to know that God is the Lord. For people who did not take the Sabbath seriously the punishment was death. It meant to be unfaithful to God and the covenant.
A good lesson for me is to set time apart for God and meet Him. It helps me to remember who He is. I need time to focus on God, to know and remember that whatever happens around me, He is there to give me His peace. His peace transcends all understanding and will guard my heart and mind.
Today I choose again to be more diligent about taking rest and coming into God’s presence. What about you?
Loïs and Mark dreamt about travelling the world in a VW-van, but God asked them if they were willing to go to “the ones who will not hear if nobody goes.” They, with their three sons, live among the Turks.