“The problem with most fundamentalist Christians is they’re not fundamentalist enough,” my cycling buddy John Ray yells over the sounds of whipping wind and gravel crunching under rubber tires.
Our legs are pumping the pedals on our bikes—John’s long hair fluttering behind his helmet like a superhero’s cape—as we clip along at 15 mph, climbing and descending the rolling hills outside of Bentonville, Arkansas.
Our peloton turns right and I’m left chewing on a cliffhanger, wondering what John meant about fundamentalist Christians.
During long bike rides, a range of topics arises, and today we’re talking about rest and sleep.
John had bought a mattress pad made by NEAT called the Aqua Pad that uses water to heat and cool the person sleeping.
All the riders round the corner and reorganize. John at my left, mainly because he can hear better out of his right ear, says “It’s a game-changer. I can’t believe how much of a difference it makes.”
The Aqua Pad has helped with aches and pains and fast-tracks getting his body to the proper sleeping temperature.
John’s newfound connection to better sleep spurs me to launch into a diatribe about how sleep is the foundation of health; not a pillar standing next to nutrition and exercise, but a base that dictates the effectiveness of both your food and your workout.
John agrees with me, then drops a spiritual bomb: “Rest is the only one of the 10 commandments we actively try to break.”
It’s been a while since I cracked the dusty NIV sitting on my shelf, so instead of only Googling the 10 commandments, I opened The Good Book and read Exodus 20:8-10:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.
Then it goes on to say God created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them— but he rested on the seventh day.
That’s the version of the story most of us know.
God made everything, then, on the seventh day, He put up his omniscient feet and took a break.
But we missed something hidden in that text.
“Have you ever read anything by Abraham Heschel?” John asked as we pedal coast down the gravel road? “His book The Sabbath was mind-blowing. I had to read a chapter at a time and reflect for a few days before moving on.”
After the ride, I ordered Heschel’s book, and in it, I found what society and culture have missed or omitted.
In Genesis 2:2 The Bible says, “On the seventh day God finished His work,” and it says, “He rested on the seventh day.”
How can God finish His work on the same day He’s supposed to be resting? What work was He finishing on the same day He rested?
During the first six days, the Lord made the heavens and Earth. But if all His work was completed on that sixth day, the Bible would have said, “On the sixth day God finished His work.”
But that’s not what it says. And the ancient rabbis picked up on this nuance and concluded there was an act of creation on that seventh day.He created rest, tranquility, serenity, and peace—and the universe would have been incomplete without them.
“On the seventh day God finished His work.”
Remember what God said about all those things He created in six days? “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” But the seventh day, where rest lives, wasn’t called good—it was designated as holy.
Rest is holy.
We protect that which is holy and keep it sacred. “Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto” (Exodus 31:14).
Substitute the word Sabbath for rest or sleep, and you’ll get the idea.
We take for granted that rest is a sort of nothingness, that it’s always there waiting for us. But God actually created rest just like He created Holstein cows and carbohydrates.
Philo, the spokesman of the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria said, “…give man relaxation from continuous and unending toil and by refreshing their bodies with a regularly calculated system of remissions to send them out renewed to their old activities.”
Nearing the end of the ride, I jockeyed my bicycle back into position next to John and asked him what he meant when he said most fundamentalist Christians aren’t fundamentalist enough?
John explained that it’s hard to actually live what The Bible tells us, so many preachers end up giving parishioners a version that fits with their worldview or biases.
If you believe what the Good Word says, you might see that rest is sacred and holy and needs to be properly observed and protected. One way to honor this commitment is to invest in getting the best rest possible each night. It’s like practicing the Sabbath, or the gift of rest and the freedom from toil, every single night.
And if you’re in the business of selling mattresses, the purpose behind what you do should take on new significance. God wants you to rest. He wants those you serve to rest well. And in a way, you get to help people reconnect with God through the products you sell that deliver His holy promise.
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