If there’s one lesson I am constantly learning and re-learning in my life with God, it’s how to rest. Every time I think I’ve got it, I am confronted with another application, another dimension, another depth or angle to which I need to learn to apply the lesson.
When I was in my late twenties, my busy life was interrupted by burnout and I had to learn to stop striving and stop trying to please people. Now that I have two children and life travels at the pace of cheerios and potty breaks, drivenness pops up in sneakier ways.
Last summer, my second daughter was born. However, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I started noticing red flags for postpartum depression. With the encouragement of family and close friends, I called a support line. As I talked to the lady there, it became obvious that I needed more rest. I needed actual uninterrupted sleep, yes. But also smaller breaks throughout the day. I needed to up my level of self-care.
Now you need to know this about me: I have a terribly difficult time accepting that I can take breaks when things are incomplete. My husband can let go and relax a lot more easily than I can. Somehow I think that I can only rest when everything on my list is checked off. It’s as if I need to earn time off or prove that I deserve to stop.
Mark Buchanan, in his refreshing book, The Rest of God, writes, “[Sabbath] is sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.”
“For no better reason than God told us we could.” Those words are hard for me to accept. It’s a challenge for me to stop in the midst of the daily grind and play or relax instead. It’s even more challenging to suspend the constant go-go-go in my heart.
My spiritual director recently asked me how I would define rest. To me, rest is a state of being fully present and content in the moment. It’s how Jesus seemed to approach his days. I could be doing dishes, nursing my baby or making play dough pizzas, but my inner posture can either be one of rushing, or one of resting.
I notice my internal hurry most acutely when I’m with my children. “Can you play with me, Mama?” my three-year-old asks. “Sure,” I reply. But more often than not, I continue with, “I can play with you for a bit, and then I have to change your sister’s diaper, put the laundry in, wash some dishes and get lunch ready.” I’m learning to catch myself when I’m mentally running ahead; to press pause, and fully engage in that moment with my daughter.
I hurry, too, when I’m rocking my baby, trying to get her to sleep. I want her to sleep sooner so I can get on with my evening. In those moments, I sing. Five full verses of “Amazing Grace.” And again. And again. As I sing, my heart accesses that place of rest. It is grace that has brought us this far, grace that will sustain us. Grace will eventually get us there.
I hurry when I believe in the lie of “not enough.” That I’m not enough, that I haven’t done enough or that there is not enough time. Mark Buchanan also observes, “Most of us live afraid that we’re almost out of time. But you and I, we’re heirs of eternity. We’re not short of days.” This perspective allows me to stop hurrying and grants me permission to fully attend to whatever moment I’m presently in.
It’s only when I center myself in the truth that I am unconditionally loved and Jesus has already accomplished it all that I can receive the gift of rest. The deeper I am drawn into his love, the deeper I enter his rest. For at his heart IS rest.
So these days, I’m learning to fully engage in each moment without rushing onto the next thing. I’m learning to make a cup of tea and drink it while it’s hot. I’m learning to leave some things for tomorrow. I’m learning to pause and actually play.
Because God says I can.
Image credit: Olga Filonenko