"Rest Is Completely Necessary for Our Call to Holiness": An Interview with Jackie Mulligan on Sabbath and the Body


"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work." - Exodus 20:8-10

The third commandment shows us that rest is an essential part of what it means to be human. CORDA's "Sabbath Series" explores this, through the lenses of what sabbath means for our bodies, minds, and souls.

Part 1 is an interview with Jackie Mulligan on the importance of bodily rest. She is the foundress of Reform Wellness, which helps others to grow in wholeness through integrated functional medicine and holistic wellness, rooted in Christ. After years in a stressful lifestyle with compromised health, Jackie realized that God alone could truly give her healing and wholeness.

What is rest, and why is it especially meaningful for Christians? 

At Reform, we redefine rest as uninterrupted, unplugged, unproductive time spent engaged in the present moment. As Christians, we are further called (read: commanded) to honor a full day of rest each week on Sunday, called the Sabbath. This invitation to rest is from the Lord, as he rested on the seventh day of creation, and it is completely necessary for our call to holiness (cf. Mark 2:27: “Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath...’”). Rest is not a luxury; it is essential to our well-being.

I've heard you mention that you observe a “mini-Sabbath” each day, and I'm so intrigued! What led you to do this? 
We need time each day to rest and digest the day. We take in so much information from the moment we open our eyes, and we leave very little time to process it all. It is essential that we prioritize rest each day to give our bodies, minds, and souls some time to connect with one another. This enables us to gain awareness about how we are doing, what we need, and what Christ is asking of us. We need space in our day to consider the Lord, to allow him to redirect our path, to recenter our gaze, and to remember our true purpose and identity in him.


What does your mini-Sabbath entail? What has been the fruit you’ve experienced?
It can be anything that truly is restorative: a nap, laying in the grass, sitting quietly, art, passive prayer, etc. "Total, Active, and Passive" are the three types of rest we can engage in. Here is a more detailed description of what they look like:

Total rest: is complete, utter, thorough, absolute, out-and-out rest! This form is exactly what it sounds like. It means eliminating everyday stressors (i.e. work, working out, errands) for an entire 24 hours. Periods of total rest are the very foundation of the recovery and repair cycles. There should be one day of total rest built into each week.
Active rest: is a reduction in workload. Active rest may include putting effort towards daily engagements, but at a less intense level. By decreasing our workload intensity, we give our mind and body the chance to re-energize itself so that we are re-focused and recovered when we return to full involvement.
Passive rest: is a short-term break from the work tasks or projects. There are all
sorts of ways to get passive rest including: meditation, light reading, listening to music, going on short walk (sans technology), stretching, or having a healthy snack with a cup of tea or water. 

Plan your rest, just as you would plan any other appointment. Your body and mind will thank you for it and you’ll work, perform, and play more efficiently.

Why is rest important for everyone, in every season of life?

On a physical level, lack of adequate rest can lead to high levels of stress and fatigue. In addition, inflammation rises, mental capacity decreases, immunity drops, and metabolism and mood suffer. In fact, sufficient rest is what helps restore us physically, develops us mentally, and refreshes us spiritually, no matter our age or vocation.  

Do you find that when folks come to you for help, they are exhausted (body, mind, and soul)? What brings us to this state? What fears do we carry?
Nearly everyone that comes to us is sick and tired of being sick and tired. So many are carrying the weight of the world, self-reliant, and chained to the widespread belief that our worth corresponds to how productive we are. Our prospective clients are truly burned out from living for the world’s view of success, healthiness, and happiness.


As far as common fears we see with our clients, many of us, without knowing, fear that we cannot reform—that the Father doesn’t desire our well-being; that things have always been this way and they’ll never change; that we will fail; that we are unworthy, incapable, or ill-equipped. In short, we don’t believe we’re able to transform our minds and bodies into the temples Christ created them to be. With Christ at the center though, all things are possible. He wants to reform our lives, and he wants to reign in our hearts and homes.

Probably all of us, at some level, know that we need to take care of ourselves more holistically. Where do we even start, though?
We first need to begin with awareness. Most often, this awareness comes from engaging in rest which allows us to to listen to the needs of our bodies, minds, and souls. We must start to ask ourselves: What is essential for me to focus on? How is God calling me to reform? From there, we can learn what our body is truly craving and foster habits that help us to reform each area of wellness in our lives. 

What has surprised you about the impact of integrating rest in your life? What difference have you seen it make in the lives of others?
When I rest, I am better able to live in order and from that, have greater freedom in Christ. I operate from a place of groundedness and calm - rather than hastiness and anxiety from feeling rushed. I am healthier and happier. I can more fully serve those around me by being present and intentional. This is because rest creates space to abide in Christ and from that zeal to live in his holy will each day.

What is one small change we can make today, to practice rest?
Say “no” to one obligation and instead of filling that space with another task or commitment, rest.

Thank you, Jackie, for sharing so beautifully about our need for bodily rest!

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