The very first of the Bible starts off: In the beginning, God created everything. But, what about before the beginning? What was God doing before He created the world?
Before “in the beginning”, God was resting. He was enjoying His existence. He was simply being.
And out of His abundant rest, He created. And then rested again. And He instructed His people to honor a day of rest.
In the Hebrew culture, the day actually began as the sun went down. At sunset, the day would begin. What this means is that the very first thing one would do in their day was sleep. Resting would be the way to initiate the new day. This is in stark contrast to our current lifestyle where our day begins when the sun rises and the first thing we do with our day is head to work, or school.
A lesson to gleam from this is to work from our rest-not the other way around. So often we work and work and work hoping that we’ve done enough to earn a rest. Or, we tell ourselves “once I finish this and that I’ll take a break and relax”. Of course, there is always another “this and that” to do after we finish “this and that”, and we rarely give ourselves permission to rest, rejuvenate and renew. We think rest will be the overflow of our work, which is the opposite of what we see with God in the creation story.
We’re talking about ways we can create a life or harmony with God. What we see of God is that God is a God of rest. So if we’re sleep deprived and overworked, that isn’t God’s fault. That’s our fault. God never calls someone to burnout, workaholism, being too busy, being worn down and beat up. God doesn’t decide what we do with our 24 hours-we decide. We choose what to do with our time, what obligations to consent to, what arrangements to make. The good news is, we can arrange our days and lives to be people who are well rested and well-slept.
But first, we need to address two common (and unfortunately accepted) obstacles to living fully with God and that is sleep deprivation and busyness.
When it comes to a lack of sleep, we excel. This success is being void of sleep is detrimental to our lives, as well as to our spiritual well-being. Among many, many other issues: 26% of all fatal car accidents are due to driving while drowsy; adolescents who routinely get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are 10x more likely to develop clinical anxiety and 7x more likely to develop clinical depression.
Do you think God desires for us to live like this? Do you think this is God’s will for humanity?
Most of us know that the dominant suggestion is eight hours of sleep a night. This means, we are meant to spend one-third of our day asleep, and therefore, one-third of our life asleep. We have been created, or we have evolved into being a species that is meant to spend one-third of its existence asleep. When we sleep, God is pleased as we are fulfilling one of His creational intentions for us. When we sleep, we are abiding by what naturally we crave, need, and require.
Sleep is one of the most important things we can do in our day. Sleep means our health is improved. But even more than that, sleep means we’re able to live out the fruits of the spirit easier. I’m sure we can all remember a time when we were sleep-deprived and therefore, it was much easier to be impatient, cranky, ungrateful, and maybe even downright mean. When we haven’t been sleeping well, it is challenging to be a people of love, hope, peace, joy, thankfulness, gentleness, kindness and compassion.
Sleep means we can enjoy the life we’re awake for. We have this narrative in our culture that we’ll sacrifice sleep so we can have another hour or two (or three or four) to do more with our lives. The challenge is, for most of us, when we are sleep deprived we are unable to enjoy the hours we are awake. We’re addicted to a stimulus to keep us going, we’re lethargic, exhausted, sluggish and go about our day in a zombie-like daze. I believe that Jesus spent His waking hours with vigor, energy and animation.
Part of our mission is to love God, and we can love God by sleeping well.
Okay, let’s switch gears. How would you describe Jesus? What words would you use?
I doubt that any of us used the words “hurried” or “stressed-out” to describe Jesus. Jesus had a lot to do, to be sure. He had many responsibilities, duties, roles and tasks to perform. However, when we read the Gospels it is quite clear that He was not hustling about frantically and frenzied. I know that in our culture we wear busyness as a badge of honor. We like to believe we are important, of value, and have significant worth if we are overly busy, and have a massive to-do list. We’re afraid that people will think we aren’t doing much with our existence if we come across as something other than busy.
As Christians, we’re supposed to look something like Jesus. Part of our mission statement is to live like Jesus. So, what are we telling the world about Jesus when we’re worn out, exhausted, cranky, beat-down, overworked, and stressed?
There’s a popular comment, about being too blessed to be stressed. However, if we are honest, most of us are too stressed to be blessed. We are too stressed to notice and appreciate the people who love us and enrich our lives. We’re too stressed to notice small wonders of beauty like birds, flowers, and even softly drifting clouds. We’re too stressed to appreciate the immense amount of items we have, and too stressed to care for them or worthfully maintain them. And we are certainly too stressed to be a blessing to others.
This isn’t the vision for life Jesus invites us to. He calls us to come to Him and He will not only give us rest, but teach us a life of rest, refreshment, and renewal. One way we can begin to become more restful and relaxed people is through margin.
Margin is simply incorporate a time of nothingness in your day. It can be five minutes, or thirty, but it is developing a habit of having nothing to do. It is buffering time into your schedule to avoid being overworked, hurried, and always behind. It is incorporating a few minutes to ensure that there is some time alone in which there aren’t demands being made on you.
Two was to think of this are a book, and a staircase. In any book, there are words on a page. This represents all the tasks you have, assignments to complete, meetings to attend, projects to work on, chores to finish. But, surrounding those words is a lot of empty blank white space. This is margin. This is time without anything to do, except rest and be refreshed.
In any staircase, there are always flat platforms in between stories. The stairs represent all of our daily activities, assignments, and to do lists. We climb, and climb, and climb. And with each step we become tired, sweaty, and wishing for a break. The flat platform at the top of the staircase, or in the middle of the stairwell is margin. It is that break we long for. It is an opportunity to catch our breath.
As Christians, we are called to live counter-culturally. One simple way is to be a people who are well-slept, and living without hurry. Live radically and get yourself sleep tonight. Live radically and buffer in ten minutes to simply watch the clouds float by.