Beckoned to Rest: Reflecting on the Value of Sabbath
By Ana Maria Blanco
The sigh of relief from every educator embracing summer break is probably one heard around the world! This year, like no other, I am sure that each one of us was desperate to reach that finish line. In the midst of a world pandemic and the overturn of our traditional teaching roles, we were called to step up and press on. So press on we did!
For some of you, summer is quickly coming to end, while many of us still have several weeks remaining to try to enjoy some rest. In the midst of this time, the question is: what will we do? Personally, I found it difficult to embrace a time of rest as agitating thoughts filled my mind. What will my students and their families do now? They’re being left to the void of summer and continued restrictions due to COVID-19. Did I do enough for them? Did I make an impact? What will the fall look like for all of us? The world is in turmoil. How can I possibly rest?
Life is certainly not what it was, but God’s invitation to rest remains the same, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Dear educator, this gift of rest is also for you and me! Let’s grab hold of it, not just for the summer, but all year round.
In order to do this well, it’s important to understand what true sabbath rest is and why it is so important. From the beginning, God built in sabbath rest into His plan for creation (Gen. 2:2). He made it so that one day a week we would cease to work. This “God design” creates a space and time for us to tap into greater depths in our relationship with Him and be refreshed to pour out into others. Thus, sabbath rest is not just time off from work, but also time out with God! Here are three things that happen when we say yes to a weekly sabbath rest:
We agree to God’s boundaries
At creation every living thing was given boundaries. This reality is so important because humanity very often lives without boundaries. Educators in particular can be known to give of their time and resources to the point of exhaustion! The fact that the sabbath is a boundary to our work week is quite powerful. It is a time in which we relinquish control and make a powerful statement against a culture that glorifies work.
We display our trust in Him
When we cease to work we necessarily say ‘no’ to other things, trusting that the Lord will handle them. I know that I can avoid making time to observe the sabbath because I feel as if I am letting people down if I am not constantly available to them or serving in some way. However, to get away with God is to display our trust that He will take care of all those things and we need not worry. He is our Good Shepherd making us lie down in green pastures and leading us by still waters (Psalm 23). How can we resist?
We are equipped to return to work
Keeping the sabbath equips us to return to our places of work refreshed and renewed. In this renewal we can better relate to others and pour into them without feeling empty ourselves. Jesus often went into solitary places to be with the Father and when He emerged He poured out so much to the people. He taught us that time with the Father, away from busyness, prepares us to continuously meet the needs of others.
Just as we instill rules and routines in our classrooms to make learning optimal for our students, the Lord has established this routine of weekly sabbath for His people to live in His fullness. Summer break is a perfect time for you to carve out a schedule for yourself that will carry you through the year. Maybe you think you cannot possibly block out a whole day for this, but I challenge you to start somewhere. I’ve started by setting aside 4-6 hours one day a week where I disconnect from people and technology, have very little on the agenda, and simply sit with God. I journal, read, worship, pray, and listen. As someone who is constantly serving, not just in school but in church ministry as well, this has been a major step for me and I have certainly seen the return, feeling refreshed, equipped, and intimately closer to God.
As you read this, I hope you are reminded that communion with your Savior is truly your life source. Generously, God has given us this gift of a weekly sabbath to engage in communion with Him. May we wholeheartedly value and embrace this sacred rhythm of rest. Not only will we be better for it, but the ones we serve will also be blessed by what we come back ready to pour out!
(If you’d like to read more on this topic and other spiritual disciplines, I highly recommend the book Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie J. Thompson, which inspired this post.)
Ana Maria Blanco is a teacher in the NYC Department of Education. She holds a license in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages (TESOL). She has taught Kindergarten, 3rd, and 4th grade. Being a Christian from a young age, her life’s goal has been to embrace every place she walks into as a mission field. She has a passion to see people walk in their true identity in Christ and to see teachers who love Jesus walk out their power and spiritual authority in the classroom.