Christmas Advent HERO

Rest is Holy

take-a-break sign

This year my spouse and I picked up a new habit for movie nights: we each take turns picking a movie. Because I like surprises, when Thomas chooses he tells me nothing about the movie. No trailer; no genre; not even the title. This is how I ended up watching Willy’s Wonderland, a comedy-horror that plays up our childhood fears of animatronics (think Chuck E. Cheese). The hero is played by Nicholas Cage. Of course.

Cage is forced to spend the night in Willy’s Wonderland, deep-cleaning the abandoned restaurant. Before Cage gets locked in, the owner tells him, “And take lots of breaks!”

Cage takes his breaks very seriously. Every hour, his watch alarm beeps. He stops what he’s doing, grabs a can of his favorite soda, and plays pinball until his watch beeps again. Then he gets back to cleaning.

Cage takes his breaks very, very seriously — even as the animatronics come to life, even as he fights them for survival, even as he fights them to save a group of teenagers. Whenever his watch beeps, he stops, drops his makeshift weapon, grabs a soda, and plays pinball. The watch beeps again, and he heads back into the fray.

The Jewish-Christian tradition takes breaks seriously, too — in the form of the sabbath. 

Our modern culture trains us up in 24/7 availability, optimization, and #hustle. In contrast, God commands:

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work — you, or your [children], or your [slaves]…or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your [slaves] may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. (Deut. 5:12-15)

It doesn’t take a leap of faith to trust that rest is important. Studies prove that breaks boost our mood and lower our stress levels and increase our productivity.

So it doesn’t take a leap of faith — but being a person of faith adds extra layers of meaning to our rest.

Rest is not only about recharging; rest is about spending time with God. When we invite God into our recreation, God uses it for our re-creation: to heal us, to remind us of God’s promises to ground us in who God has made us to be. Rest is holy.

As Walter Brueggemann wrote in Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now: “We used to sing the hymn ‘Take Time to Be Holy.’ But perhaps we should be singing, ‘Take time to be human.’ Or finally, ‘Take time.’ Sabbath is taking time … time to be holy … time to be human.”

We may not associate the season of Lent with rest. Instead, we think of repentance and taking on new disciplines. But remember: Lent also calls us to prayer and to simplicity. These spiritual practices make room for holy rest.

Let’s take our Lenten rest seriously, to make it part of our spiritual discipline. Set an alarm on your watch if you need to!

Pr Kate

Feb. 24, 2021

Rev. Katherine Museus Dabay serves as university pastor at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and takes turns writing weekly devotions with University Pastor James A. Wetzstein.