On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn, you must deny yourselves. Neither native-born Israelites nor foreigners living among you may do any kind of work. This is a permanent law for you. On that day offerings of purification will be made for you, and you will be purified in the Lord’s presence from all your sins. It will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. This is a permanent law for you.
Relate: “You must deny yourselves.” If you were to hear that, what would you think of? For me, obviously the first thing is food. Especially since this is lent, even though I don’t really celebrate it as my high church friends would, it does tend to play a bigger role in this season. Of course, many people try to take an easier road with the concept of fasting and give up things like social media, or TV, or chocolate, or… whatever. Please people, don’t tell me you will be “fasting” facebook. No. You are exercising self discipline. This is still a good thing, but it isn’t fasting.
OK. Now that the pet peeve has been aired, let me get back on track. Either way, fasting food and exercising the self discipline to cut certain distractions or luxuries out of our life for a while both seem like work to me. It takes effort to not check my phone after every single facebook or wordpress notification. It is hard to skip six, then seven, then eight meals in a row. I would define work, the way I am talking about it, as “extending effort to achieve a desired result.”
Work is a good thing. We all have to work. Even what we love, like my writing, can sometimes be work. The other day I sat down giving myself a three hour block to write a devotional here. Part of it was that I was just not in the right mood or mindset. Part of it was that I am a natural student and found myself doing a lot more reading and research than I was actually doing writing. Part of it was the social media distractions I was not using the self discipline to avoid. Whatever the reason, those three hours went by and I had not even written two full paragraphs.
React: I wish then that I had this scripture before me as part of the daily reading. The entire way home, and that night, I was beating myself up because I had failed. I had the misconception that The River Walk depends on me. I am essential for its success. If it wasn’t for my effort and hard work it would never have passed the milestones it has crossed this past week. Me, me, me. I, I, I. No.
“You must deny yourselves… do no work.” I think every workaholic and perfectionist will understand how hard this can be. We have to do it. The world is depending on us. It just has to get done and nobody else is up to the task. If we don’t take a moment to deny ourselves, do no work, and rest, there will come a crisis point in our life that will end up looking something like this:
I am sorry for the way my actions and lifestyle always demonstrate an arrogance that everything always depends on me. Even as I give my greatest and best and try my hardest when it is appropriate to do so, give me the humility to deny myself, rest, and trust that You are in control. Help me to recognize that sometimes to stop, to step back, and even to sleep is the most godly thing I can do. Even as I do, I can know that You are still hard at work.