There is nothing more elusive in our house than a working charger. The wall block goes missing, a kitten chews the cord, or the cord suddenly stops fitting into the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, computer, whatever. What that leaves us with is a house full of devices in the red zone. You know the red zone, right? The less than 20 percent battery zone. The shut down, plug in, and reenergize zone. But it’s not just the electronics that need a charge. I need one, too.
I wish I had a way to see the precise percentage of my own battery life so I could reenergize before I hit the red zones of irritation, exhaustion, and anxiety, but I tend to swim in those waters way too often. Where is the charger? Today I invite you into my struggle for sabbath. What does recharging look like in real life? Why is it so hard? I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. What I do have is a few ideas about sabbath—a few lies I’ve believed about rest. Have you believed them, too?
“I’ll rest when…”
You know, I’ll rest when the school year ends. I’ll rest when my kids are bigger. I’ll have time to chill in the next season. After nearly 15 years of mothering, I know this: each season of motherhood has its own opportunities for sabbath moments and its own dangers for burnout. My kids used to take naps and go to sleep hours before I did. Here, in the middle season of mothering, they are usually at activities, games, hang-outs long after I’m ready for bed. But I don’t have to load anyone into the car to go to the grocery store anymore. I can stroll the aisles of Target alone. And my husband and I can go on a date without the thought of a babysitter while our big kids fend for themselves at home. If you have sabbath naptime moments and hours of quiet at night, take advantage.
“I am resting.”
Have you done it too? Plopped down on the couch exhausted and instinctually reached for your phone, giving in to a scroll session and telling yourself you are recharging. How about a late-night binge of that new Netflix show? I’m afraid we have been sold a bill of goods, friends. Though there is nothing wrong with the scroll or the binge, it is not real rest. Real rest is not just the unplugging, the bath time alone, the nap. Real rest also includes plugging in, to what really brings you life. If we merely shut our phones down when they reach the red zone without plugging them in, they will never charge up. Does a meal with your people reenergize you? Then that is sabbath. Do you feel full of life after a run outside? Then that is sabbath. Does digging in the dirt, putting something on a canvas, or reading books by long-dead poets fill your soul? Then that is sabbath. Sabbath is all about giving ourselves permission to do what delights our souls. Don’t settle for a fake rest.
“I don’t need to rest.”
I recently heard that both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher boasted that they only needed five hours of sleep a night. It was a badge of strength, I suppose. Unfortunately, both of those world leaders developed Alzheimer’s disease, which has been linked to a lack of sleep. That’s extreme, I know—but resisting rest can do damage. We push through the warning signs of burnout or breakdown, subconsciously telling ourselves we are stronger than the red zone. In his book Invitation to a Journey, Robert Mulholland says what we all know: “We live as though our doing determines our being.” We deny the need for sabbath, for the recharge, in order to get a leg up on the housework, to get in the extra hours at work, to get another workout in. Work, work, work. The badge of busyness is heavy and it does a poor job of hiding hurting, breathless hearts. Your need for rest doesn’t make you less-than. It makes you human. And I have yet to meet a mother who is not.
Rest takes trust. We have to trust that we are good enough even when we are not producing. Sabbath means we lay down the god of efficiency and choose to be present, in the moment, just as it is. I’m not very good at any of it, but I think it is a test I will be given until I pass. Will you stick to a sabbath during the school year, even if it’s a struggle? Now, has anybody seen a charger?
What are some ways you can find rest in your daily life?