What do sharks that are ever moving in order to stay alive tell us about rest? Brianna Hines will tell us today with a clear illustration of the necessity of finding the current of the presence of God to truly rest. We’re excited to begin Week 4 of Embracing God’s Rest with you today!
Let’s talk about sharks. I am straight up terrified of sharks, or really any creature that can sneak around in murky water and eat me, so alligators and crocodiles count, too. I think it all started in middle school when we had to read this true story about a great white shark that traveled upstream in a river on the East Coast and would eat unsuspecting kids. Whoever was in charge of picking the middle school reading requirements must have had a sick sense of humor. Anyway, I am terrified of sharks and WILL NOT enter a pool alone, even if I can see the bottom. I ALWAYS have to chant a silent mantra to myself if I fall off an innertube while boating — “Sharks don’t live in lakes! It’s too cold for crocodiles! Loch Ness is not a thing!” And finally, I will NEVER again swim in the ocean without full visibility!
However, as terrified as I am of sharks, there is something very interesting about them that can teach us a little bit about sabbath. For some sharks, like the great white and the hammerhead, if they stop moving, they die. All types of sharks take oxygen from the water to breathe, but sharks like these ones can’t pump water over their gills. So to stay alive, the sharks have to constantly swim forward.
This means that these species of shark can’t ever stop. They have to keep going, going, going or die. Even when they need to rest their brains in a type of “sleep,” the sharks put themselves on autopilot to keep moving while mentally checking out. Sound familiar?
Have you ever tried to rest while still moving? How many vacations have you gone on where you checked your email? How many nights have you worked until you fell asleep? A while back when Lew was in grad school and working two jobs, he considered listening to his audiobooks while he was asleep with the hope of somehow absorbing the material through his dreams! Now, I am not condemning anyone, especially not my husband who was working so hard to provide for our family and get his degree, but he was so driven to keep going, going, going that he was even trying to work while he was asleep! I, too, have cursed the need for sleep, ranting about all the things I could get done if only I didn’t have to sleep! It is against our nature to sit still, to rest. We, like sharks, have this drive to accomplish, to keep going lest we die.
So how can these sharks ever possibly get true rest? To completely cease from their labor and come to a complete stop? Well, they have a very clever trick up their sleeves, and I think it is somewhat profound. In my study abroad in the Galapagos, our guide took us in a little boat to an unsuspecting spot hidden among the mangrove forests. When the boat stopped and the ripples calmed, we could see some reef sharks down in the water resting peacefully on rocks. Remember now, that this type of reef shark cannot stop moving or it will suffocate, so we were all puzzled to see these sleek creatures so still underneath us. Our guide explained that the sharks have found special places around the islands where the currents are strong enough as they flow past their sleeping bodies to bring them life-giving oxygen. These sharks know that the only way they can truly rest, truly stop, is if they place themselves in a life-giving current. Without the current, stopping means a swift death, but with the current, stopping brings rest and restoration, and a deep breath of oxygen to tired lungs. They can rest even with a built in need to keep moving.
Likewise, true sabbath rest requires the current of the presence of God. Without it, stopping from work is just suffocating for a little while until we can start moving again. It doesn’t bring us true rest. It doesn’t restore or heal us. It is the reason why so often we feel like we need a vacation from our vacation! We need to find the current of God in order to truly rest sitting still.
For those of you that have tried sabbath already only to find it unrestful and unfulfilling and underwhelming, you might be like one of these sharks because you are trying to stop without thinking about how you are going to breathe. Does that mean that you have to have your nose in a Bible all day in order to get something out of the sabbath? No. But it does mean that sabbath isn’t just a day for sleeping in and ordering takeout. True sabbath is a whole lot more.
What exactly does this “current of God” look like on a sabbath? How can we tap into it? The very first sabbath in Genesis was a day to sit back and to enjoy all of the good things God had created and to spend time with the One who created them. Sabbath today shouldn’t be all that different. A sabbath wrapped in selfishness, concerned only with doing the things that make me feel good, bring me rest, divorced from any relationship with God, will always leave me wanting. But a sabbath that praises God for the things which bring me rest, thanks Him for the blessings which make me feel good, will be an altogether different and fulfilling one.
The current of God is opening our eyes in remembrance and gratitude for all of the good things that He has given us. These include His wonderful creation, His image bearers in our life, His Word, His character, His blessings. We open our eyes to these things by enjoying them and thanking God for them. If the sabbath is all about me, it will end up being exhausting and disappointing. If the sabbath is all about what God has given me, it will become rich and rejuvenating as we take a deep breath of God’s goodness to last us all week long. God longs to restore us, not suffocate us. This Sabbath, join the sharks and try resting in the current of God. Then take a looooong nap, and thank God that He invented sleep.