I was watching “Becky’s Homestead” on a Youtube channel a while back and I was recently struck by something she said. I remember her talking about how our agrarian ancestors would wake up when the sun rose and would go to bed when it set. This lifestyle worked in perfect harmony with the planting, growing, and harvesting season. She talked about how most Americans, who do not follow this rhythm, no longer get the rest and sleep that we need.
For our ancestors, spring was the time for planting and preparing the field. It certainly demanded a lot of work, but not as much work as the summer season when animals needed constant attention, plants needed pruning, gardens needed weeding, and summer crops needed harvesting. The fall chores would begin to slow down as the weather cooled. Weeds grew tired of constantly finding their way up and fruits and vegetables decreased in production. The spring sun was out just long enough to accomplish spring tasks, the summer sun provided lasting hours of light for summer tasks, and the fall sun provided enough daylight for fall tasks.
Then there was the grace of winter. The winter sun barely stayed out long enough to accomplish anything at all. However, there was very little to accomplish. Most animals had been slaughtered, sitting processed in the cellar. Fruits and vegetables had been strung for preservation and wood was neatly stacked ready to provide heat all winter long. This was the time to rest, and it was ok. They didn’t need to invent things to do to keep themselves busy or feel productive. They understood that rest played an essential part in productivity. Winter was the time to enjoy a good book, knit a blanket, or sit around the fire enjoying a long conversation. It was the time for extra sleep after exhausting days of intensive, yet fulfilling, labor. There were no LED lights or blue lights to throw off their circadian rhythm and when the oil burned out it was too dark to do anything else, except sleep.
Oddly enough the sun has not changed its rhythm to fit the modern lifestyle that most of mankind follows. The sun still goes down early and comes up late in the winter and it still lingers much longer in the summer. But the majority of people no longer follow the pattern of the sun. Regardless of the season, we get up early, some of us punch a time card, and we go to bed way too late. Somehow it’s become ingrained in us that seasons of rest equate to laziness. We’ve come to believe that we should carry a certain amount of guilt if we don’t wake up early enough to exercise, shower and put on makeup, and have our quiet time, all before we head out the door or before our young ones wake us up. But where did this guilt come from? Is it from God or from our culture? It certainly appears more “godly” to get up early and have a quiet time. And perhaps God might be asking us to do that for a season. But could it be that the devil – who disguises himself as the angel of light – might also place on us false guilt to rob us of the grace God has for in each season of life, all in the name of “productivity.”
I’m in a season right now where my kids will on most mornings sleep in until about 8:00. Instead of waking up to a hungry baby, or an alarm clock, I’ve found myself waking up to the sunlight pouring in my window leaving me with just enough time to read my Bible and shower before my kids are anxiously asking for breakfast. Some of you might be thinking “Lucky you! Wish I could sleep in every day, but I don’t have that luxury.” However, I too used be in a place where I had to punch a time card and be to work before the sun came up. What’s more, for months and months I had to get up in the middle of the night to nurse a baby or change a diaper. But during those seasons God gave me a different grace. I had family around to help me or when I was single and a teacher, I could give the kids back to their parents and enjoy evenings to myself. But now, my grace has shifted and I’ve been given restful mornings to prepare myself for the constant demands of parenthood, homeschooling, cooking, and cleaning. I’ve also been graced with kids who take pretty decent naps or play quietly by themselves in middle of the day, giving me time to catch my breath and get caught up on laundry or other tasks.
However, there’s a battle going on inside of me between our current cultural mentality and the agrarian lifestyle of our ancestors. Everything inside of me is screaming to just rest and enjoy the grace that has been given to me. But the other part of me is plagued with guilt. Even in the dead of winter, my guilt will drive to busy myself pulling weeds – ones that will die on their own if I just leave them be. This guilt that the enemy puts on us only robs us of our dependency on God and from enjoying the grace He gives us. What would life look like if we lived out of grace rather than out of guilt? What if we rested when it was time to rest? Might we just find ourselves being more productive and working out of inspiration rather than with bitterness? Might we find ourselves spending more organic time with God rather than forcing it at a time we don’t want it – like when we’re exhausted?
(Ok here’s my caveat – there have been seasons where God reminds me that “Man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Likewise, I believe He is saying that man does not live on sleep alone but on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Hence, I believe there are times when God might be asking us to press in and give up sleep or food for the sake of hearing His voice. Most of the time though, I think our quiet times should be at a time and place that makes sense to the season of life that we’re in. ie: during a nap or while we’re watching a sunset.)
Lately, I’ve found that I feel most rested with 10 or more hours of sleep. If I get less than that I feel groggy and irritable. Right now, it’s winter. Is it any coincidence that my body is crying out for more rest? It seems to me that maybe just maybe God knew what He was doing when He created longer days for the summer and shorter days for the winter, or told us to take a sabbath, or said to take the 7th year off and let the land rest, or instructed man to attend animals and care for the land. Could it be that He designed the sun, moon, and stars to work in harmony with His instructions? And if the sun, moon, and stars still follow the same pattern they did when they were created, is it possible that we would function much better if we followed our original design as well?
What might be holding you back from experiencing God’s design in your life? Is it comparing your life to another’s? Could it be a fixation on productivity or expectations of our culture? Are you being led by self-inflicted guilt rather than by God’s grace?
Everyone has been given an individualized package of grace fit for their season of life. You may not be in a place where you can go to bed and rise with the sun. But what grace has God placed in your life? If you don’t know, pray and ask God to reveal it to you, and when He does, don’t let the devil take it from you through feelings of guilt for it is the very thing you need right now to live the abundant life God has designed you to live, and when we acknowledge that we need His grace, we’re really acknowledging that we need HIM.