When we think about resting, often what comes to mind is silence, solitude, and the cessation of physical work. As an introvert, I naturally love all three of these things, and it’s in these times I often feel most rested. The Bible certainly affirms this kind of rest. We see examples of people, particularly Jesus, who went off by himself to pray. That was probably great rest for Jesus. However, the Bible is also full of examples of a different kind of rest, a rest that cannot be done in isolation.
You and I cannot function alone. We need one another. Throughout Scripture we find examples of community, of being with other people. After God created Adam, he saw that Adam was alone and for the first time God said, “It is not good” (Genesis 2:18). When God calls Abraham to Canaan, he promises Abraham that “I will make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). After Jesus ascends into heaven and the Holy Spirit descends upon the people, “all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44). Countless other examples of community can be found in Scripture. The point is simply this: we were not created to be alone. If we were not created to be alone, then chances are our times of Sabbath rest should not always be spent alone either.
Think about the balance we have been discussing over the past two weeks. A couple of weeks ago we discussed the importance of physical rest. However, the next week we discussed the importance of spiritual rest. Hopefully what you have found is that we need both physical and spiritual rest. In the same way, you and I also need both individual and communal rest. While we definitely need to take time to rest in silence, solitude, and the cessation of work, we also need to rest in the context of community.
In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero writes,
On Sabbaths God also invites us to slow down to pay attention and delight in people. In the Gospels, Jesus modeled a prayerful presence with people—whether it was a Samaritan woman, the widow of Nain, the rich young ruler, or Nicodemus. He seemed ‘into’ the beauty of men and women crafted in Gods’ image. This has become a spiritual discipline for me. I try, for example, to walk slowly, leaving lots of free space and time on Sabbaths so I can stop for unexpected conversations with neighbors, family, and shopkeepers. I ask God for the grace to leave the frenzied busyness around me and be a contemplative presence to those around me.1
When was the last time you could honestly say you delighted in people? Whether you’re an introvert or not, delighting in people is important to your Sabbath rest. But how do you find out who these people are? Who do you truly delight in? While we should always love and care for people as Christ loved and cared for all, you know, as well as I do, that there are just some people who “fill you up” and others who “drain you.” It’s not a bad thing. It’s just the way it is. As you think about what it means to rest communally, think about people who fill you up. Who are the people you love to be around, the ones who you delight in? For me, there are two groups of people who fill me up: my family and my closest friends.
There is nothing I love more than spending time with my wife and son (and soon to be little girl). We can be at home lounging on the couch, at the park playing, or at the aquarium checking out cool fish. Regardless, quality time spent with them provides a Sabbath rest that truly replenishes my soul. At the same time, I have a small group of close friends who fill me up. I love to eat, play, and hang with these friends. Time with them reminds me that my family is greater than just those I share a last name with. I delight in my family and friends and because of that I need them. They allow me to rest well.
So, how do we rest well communally? What are some ways we can delight in the relationships God has given us? Chances are, you already know how you enjoy your family and friends. You know the things you love to do with those closest to you. I would encourage you to do more of that. On the day that you choose to rest, invite friends and family over to eat and enjoy one another’s company. Fight the temptation to stress over having the perfectly clean home and cooking the perfectly made meal. Instead, fight to delight in and enjoy those around you. Remember, we were created for community and so let’s rest in the community God has given us.
1Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 169-70.