At the end of the summer, I decided to take a “sabbath rest,” a time for rest and relaxation. Like everyone, I felt the pressures and the anxiety of experiencing the Covid pandemic. I think I was exhausted mentally, from writing and reading and listening to distressing news on a daily basis. So, I needed a few months of “otherness.”
However, more than two months later, I confess that the time of rest just did not happen. A time of joy, refreshment, delight in God’s Word, prayer and quietness escaped me. I attempted to protect some time alone, and turn off the computer and television. I wanted to enjoy “outside reading” (fiction, not textbooks or theological treatises), and take a few “prayer walks” in the woods. Yet, time has slipped by, and my life is no more quiet now than it was before.
I am reminded of a little child, clutching the hand of his father, trying to keep pace with his dad’s footsteps. Finally, the child says, “Daddy, slow down!” That’s me. In the same way, I wanted to clutch the hand of God and say, “Please, slow down!!”
I enjoy reading the magazine “Magnolia Journal,” by Chip and Joanna Gaines. This fall, Joanna featured the idea of “rhythm” in our lives and in our homes. I want to talk about “rhythms” in another blog. But the newest magazine highlights the concept of “rest,” so it spoke to me (issue #7). She is right when Joanna writes that the idea of slowing down can seem uncomfortable and even “un-American” to many of us! To make rest a priority, especially going into the busiest time of the year, seems incongruous. In fact, most of us can acknowledge that we need rest, physically, mentally and even spiritually. Taking a back seat to incredibly important jobs, homes that need cleaning, food that needs cooking, to loving family members and their emergencies, to favorite hobbies, fitness, and even medical appointments – well, rest is just a fleeting aspiration. There is always a long list of “things to do,” places to go and people to see. Maybe in our heads we know that we need to rest, but there just isn’t room on the calendar – or in our hearts.
Rest can look very different from person-to-person. It might be a 10-minute nap, yoga, listening to music, or turning off the cell-phone for an hour. I know some parents who have to sit on the floor of the bathroom, with the door locked, to rest from the demands of young children; and yes, an Oreo cookie does help. Please know that this blog is not a “guilt trip,” or just another thing for us to do. As Joanna says, “it’s in the quiet that we can hear clearly the goodness of life happening all around us…only when we are at rest can we celebrate all that we already are and all that we’ve already done.” I love that. I forget to look at what I have already accomplished on my “to do” list – and just celebrate that for a moment. We all need to try to find that “sweet spot” of true, intentional rest that fits us.
I think it is interesting that God did not suggest to his people that they should take a time of rest. No, the “Sabbath,” the “day of rest” is a command (Ex 20:8; Dt 5:12). God knows us better than we do ourselves. His gift of rest is a time of blessing, and refreshment, and not a duty to perform once-in-a-while. Silence is a blessing in our chaotic world; slowing down is a blessing in our hurry-up world. The more we do NOT rest, the more we become consumed with ourselves; the whole world revolves around ME and what I need to do. Thus, we lose focus on the goodness of God, on the kindnesses of other people, and on the beauty in the world around us. We rest because it separates us, our identity, from what it is that we do (or produce). And, “we rest because there is good work still to be done.”
I am trying. I really am. I know I need to slow down – just not this week. With Joanna, “we believe in seeking the balance between hustle and rest.” I pray that you will seek, and will find, that balance in each of your lives as we race into the holiday season this year.