The Importance of Standing Around Doing Nothing

. . . so on the seventh day he rested from all his work (Genesis 2:2).

The drums that thundered during football season fell strangely silent in mid-November.

Upbeat arrangements of popular songs were replaced by slower pieces featuring lyrical woodwinds and sounding like something you’d hear on public radio. As seasons changed the music changed with them.

In September and October drummers stood up all the time, constantly pounding the daylights out of anything we could hit with a stick. In November, when the music changed, drummers became “percussionists” and took a seat. Those high-brow arrangements seemed to provide plenty of work for drummers who could navigate the keys of the xylophone or hear pitch and tune the timpani mid-piece. That wasn’t me.

Counting Rests

Most often I found myself waiting on the occasional line that called for snare drum. And from time to time my sole contribution was to wait for one note – a singular moment when the music would crescendo, culminating in the crash of cymbals. Then back to my seat.

According to Psalm 150 God is well praised with the sound of crashing cymbals. I believe that. I love the sound of the cymbals. What I’ve never loved quite as much was counting measure after resting measure so that I’d know when to let loose with the climactic crash. Praise is sweeter when the cymbals crash at the right time and on the right beat.

In other words, knowing when and how to contribute and enhance the music means giving careful attention to bar after bar of rests. The rests require just as much intentionality as the moment of sound. What looks and feels like standing around doing nothing is in fact disciplined musicianship.

Counting rests, resting well, is critical for knowing when and how to stand up and do your job.

An Intentional Sabbath

As with percussionists and concert band, just so with you and the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping requires intentionality. Effort. Sabbath does not happen simply because the weekend rolls around. We jokingly speak of our work week as a welcomed respite from the exhausting demands of our weekend. Quite often, we’re not joking.

Within few days you’ll be facing another weekend. Chances are you’ve already made some plans. Now might be a good time to ask what it will mean for you to keep the Sabbath. Does your weekend allow you plenty of margin for rest? If it is indeed a holy day, the Lord’s Day, it is worthy of some focused energy. What things would be life-giving and restorative on your Sabbath? What things have you planned to do that can wait?

Dallas Willard has said that “grace is the opposite of earning; it is not the opposite of effort.” This is true of the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping is rooted in grace, not rules. But like a good musician, we must be attentive and intentional about the resting. Those who rest well will play and work well.

Likewise, our failure to be intentional about rest (our refusal to rest) can lead to a mess. An ill-timed crash of cymbals ruins the piece. And our neglect of rest can make a mess of our bodies, our thoughts, our relationships, and our daily work.

This might be worth pondering today: do you ever plan to rest? Do you invest some effort and actually work at your resting? And what would that look like? How do you define rest? Maybe resting has less to do with the movements of your body than it does with the posture of your heart. We’ll take a closer look at that next time.


Your call on our lives, O God, invites us to both work and rest. You give us work to do and ask us to participate in your work in this world. And you also invite us to rest, knowing that our work is never ultimate. Grant that we might be as intentional in our rest as we are in our labor, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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