“Sometimes one of the most spiritual things you can do is sleep,” or so the saying goes. It’s been the constant refrain in my mind this past year as I’ve struggled to find rest, and more importantly, sleep. I want to be spiritual. I want to grow in godliness. I want to be kind to my family. And so often I find myself up against my inability to sleep, which then leads to a host of other problems.
I wish I could say my insomnia problems are resolved. They aren’t. But I have found things that remedy my sleep problems (at least in some small part). One of those things is taking an intentional time away to rest. Given my season of life, rest can be hard. But I know it’s a biblical command. I know that there isn’t a caveat for stay-at-home moms in God’s call on humanity to turn from our labors towards the God who needs no rest (Ps. 121:4). I have had to humble myself before my limitations as a human being (and right now, a pregnant human being) and let the work I can’t get done go. I’ve had to intentionally allow for margin and turn down things I know I want to do but simply cannot. It’s helped some, but I still find myself struggling to sleep at least a couple of days a week.
Another “thorn” in my side has been something I have more control over—my lack of generosity. I might say I want to be generous with my time and resources, but again, when faced with my season of life I find myself confronted by my own stinginess. I don’t want to give up what I have. I want to keep it for myself. And it’s offensive to God and harmful to others.
So how does my inability to rest and my lack of generosity go together?
In Leviticus 23, the Lord brings up the laws for reaping the harvest of the land again to Moses (he does it in Leviticus 19:9-10 as well):
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:22).
The implication here is that the land was God’s gift to them, not their own. They were merely stewards of it to use in a way that pleased the Lord. They were not to hoard the harvest from the land for themselves. Then right after the repeated command in verse 22 comes the Feast of Trumpets, where the Lord tells Moses:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation (Lev. 23:23-24).
All of this is in preparation for the Day of Atonement, the holiest day for the Israelite people, but it’s also coming at the end of the agricultural year where they would have seen how the Lord provided for them in that year of Sabbath rest. In many ways, their generosity towards the sojourner, the widow, and the poor in leaving harvest to glean was in direct relation to how they trusted the Lord to provide for them as they ceased from work.
Rest from our labors and generosity towards our neighbors go hand in hand.
Both strip us of our self-sufficiency and both direct our gaze back to God as the one who sustains us and gives us all things—including productivity. A failure to rest is treating our time, productivity, and work as our own and for our own glory. A failure to give freely is treating the fruit of our labors, our stuff, and our time as our own as well. Both mindsets run contrary to scripture.
As I think about these two “thorns” that I’ve wrestled with this year, I am reminded that everything I have, whether it’s my work or my possessions, is given to me by God to love my neighbor. When I humble myself before my limitations and rest, I am loving my neighbor. When I give of my time and possessions without stinginess, I am loving my neighbor. In both, I am giving glory to the God who is neither stingy nor in need of rest.