Rest and Work

This snowy Wednesday afternoon I am tired. You know the feeling. It almost aches to keep my eyes open, as I sit and read the same sentence of a book over and over without even realizing it! The book drops. My head droops. I think my body is trying to tell me something! I need to close my eyes and rest, I need to stop what I’m doing for awhile.

This is Godly, God-like, right there in the beginning on the seventh day of creation: “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3) A Rabbi once told me that in this text God the Hebrew words find God ceasing, and then exhaling, letting his breath out. there’s a helpful image!

What’s interesting is the connection between rest and creating, or “all the work he had done” as it says two times. Rest is necessary and a great investment in the to do list always waiting for action. What I also know is that this idea is not valued and re-enforced, especially in we of the protestant work ethic and our American way of driving ourselves forward.

(Getting up to grab another cup of coffee…now back to writing this blog!)

In the fall of 1992 I learned my lesson. Having recently arrived in Stockholm Sweden for a year long internship at the Immanuel Covenant Church. Mid-way through morning number one a stranger appeared at my door, peeked in and asked, “Ska Vi Fika?” , waited to see if I knew what she was asking, and then followed up the silence with a command: “time for coffee!” Not finding a mug in my office, I followed her to a common space where everyone was. Seeing the cups across the room, and walking around the growing laughter and conversation, I filled my cup and turned to make my way back to work.

“No! No!” pastor Ake shouted as though he expected me to disappear. “Now we Fika, we sit together and drink coffee here together, not alone in our offices.” “Come and join us!” Nervously, I did. The same crazy thing happened mid-afternoon. After couple months I realized that I wasn’t tired at the end of the day, and that was happily connected in community, and that I was looking forward to my work.

But I had to be forced to stop. And not necessarily to rest by sleeping, but by ceasing for fifteen minutes or so, and then getting back to it. I learned in that time that stepping away for a bit and turning off productivity investing in collegial relationships and thinking about other things lights the fuse for the work to do when returning.

Think about it in your own context. “Work” can be your job, your school schedule, your volunteering, whatever your day’s list contains. It is good and necessary to rest for a bit, like God did before getting back to creating again.

My honest confession is that much of this is lost on me these days. but my body mind and spirit are preaching to me. Now it’s 3:30. Wednesday night dinner and refuel looms. the sermon clock is ticking. There’s calls to make and prayers to pray. I’m done with my fourth cup of coffee. I’ve talked myself into closing my eyes for twenty minutes. Alarm set. Back to work soon.

Love from here!

Peter Hawkinson

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