This story appears in FCA Magazine’s January/February 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” – Hebrews 4:9-10 (NIV)
Not too long ago, my wife and I made a decision as parents that—in today’s world—many would think is crazy. In fact, many of our peers literally did ask us, “Are you crazy?”
We had our kids take a season off from sports.
Truthfully, we were spent. We had just come off a grueling summer, whirling in different directions to lacrosse fields in five separate states, making sure all our kids could take advantage of the best opportunities, coaching and competition to maximize their potential in the sport they loved. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time, but we didn’t realize the toll it was taking on our family, especially once the school year started and our tanks were all on empty.
Needless to say, I was concerned. And that’s when we made the unthinkable decision. “But won’t your kids fall behind?” and “What will you do with all the time?” were two of the more frequent questions from fellow parents.
Now, I realize the decision is not for everyone. But it worked for us. We were desperate for some much needed rest! And it gave us the necessary margin to slow down a little bit and actually reconnect as a family, realizing that “car time” rarely equals “quality time.”
What we discovered was revealing. Sports weren’t just a great part of our life; they had become our life. No matter how much we needed rest, we just couldn’t unplug. As we started to dig beneath the surface, we uncovered three basic reasons for why we stayed in the rat race heading from one field to the next:
1. We had pride. A couple of our kids were selected to play for pretty competitive teams, and we were excited. As a result, we were willing to restructure our lives and even sacrifice rest in pursuit of belonging. Sure, we told ourselves it didn’t matter what level they were at, but it felt pretty good when they were selected for the higher level. Pride makes you do stupid things. And it always makes you pay a price. For us, that price was less sleep, rest and quality family time. We justified it by saying we loved our kids and wanted to “maximize their potential,” but really those were just smokescreens.
2. We had become self-reliant. Our family values having a strong work ethic. We believe it takes faith and work to achieve great things. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but at some point the “work” part—our own effort and striving—overtook the faith part of trusting and believing. We fell for the trap of believing our plan was perhaps better than God’s, or even that His plans could be thwarted if we didn’t say “yes” to everything. When God says to rest and calls rest a “gift” to us, we should value and protect that gift. He knows better than us what we need.
3. We were operating out of fear. In some subtle ways, we believed the lie that if we ever said “no” the kids would miss out and fall behind. We were afraid a “no” might lead to some missed scholarship or achievement. But what we found was that our rest actually served to refresh every aspect of our lives and renew a deep love for the game. Unfortunately, millions of kids quit sports because of burnout; at some point they just stop having fun because they never get a break. We resolved to make our future decisions based on faith instead of fear.
As it turned out, the season off from sports was the rest we needed for our weary souls. Our pace had stretched us so thin that we weren’t enjoying the things that mattered most. And, somewhat ironically, we probably ended up playing just as much sports during the “season off.” But it was totally unstructured and entirely about having fun. All of it was exactly the rest and refreshment we needed, and it helped our family reconnect relationally.
We learned to depend more deeply on God and His ability to mold our lives into something special. We began to pray and trust that He would accomplish His purposes in our lives. In the end, that was the kind of life we would want anyway!
God gave us this great gift of rest. Even He rested from His creative work. Rest is an essential part of a healthy life in mind, body and spirit. It’s a reminder that God is in control; we are not. Resting gives you the energy and enthusiasm you need for life. It allows your mind to unplug from the endless items on your to-do list. Rest lets your body recover and rebuild following intense workouts. And, ultimately, rest allows God to remain Lord of your life.
So, let’s start viewing rest as the gift that it is. And let God use rest to bring your weary soul back to life!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER CONCERNING REST:
1. Do you get enough rest? If no, why not
2. Which of these do you relate to most: pride, self-reliance or fear? Describe.
3. What change would you have to make to get enough sleep or honor the Sabbath?