Rest, my child. Rest.

Do you ever feel you are part of a crazy crowd running up an endless escalator to reach your destination faster? 

I feel that way sometimes, and never more so than during the recent past when I helped to care for my aging father-in-law, sprinted into new motherhood and published a book, all at the same time. 

Emerging from that period of insanity, I cackle and fluff my nest around every golden appearance of rest. I want to learn how to rest often and deeply. I recently talked with two friends who have learned for themselves the value of rest.

A spiritual discipline

Heidi Yoder had a hard year in 2020. While the world battled COVID-19, she grappled with the death of a dear friend, a crazy work schedule that only sped up when society slowed down, and high blood pressure that stole her good health and sent her seeking explanation from doctors. While medication now keeps her blood pressure under control, she has learned through her illness the necessity of rest. 

Rest is a spiritual discipline, Heidi tells me. If she listens to the Bible on audio while doing another task, her mind is distracted. In stillness, she can better absorb the Word. Since making rest a priority, she has noticed a change in her prayer life. Her prayers have grown richer and more specific. Her choice to rest benefits the people she prays for as well as herself, she points out. 

“Come away to a desolate place all by yourself and rest awhile,” Jesus told his disciples (Mark 6:31). For centuries, spiritual thinkers have realized the importance of rest. The ancient practice of lectio divina, formalized by Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century, begins and ends in stillness. This path of contemplation is renewing my own devotional life. As described by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays in Grasping God’s Word, the phases are: 

Silencio — Quiet your heart and mind before God.

Lectio — Read a passage of Scripture aloud, listening as if God were speaking.  

Meditatio — Read the passage again, letting the words sink deep and allowing the Spirit to make connections with your own life. 

Oratio — Pray responsively as you read the passage a third time. 

Contemplatio — Rest and wait in God’s presence. 

A healthy balance

Heidi says she is learning to say “no” to work opportunities, fun ideas from her own creative mind and social events if those opportunities, ideas and events overload her. By considering every “yes” carefully, she creates space for rest. 

“Rest can look different for different people,” she says. “What you would think is restful might not be for me.” 

Although we cannot rely on our feelings completely, Heidi has found she experiences a sense of thriving when she has a good balance of work, social life and time with God. A lack of thriving in any of the three areas may indicate the balance is wrong. 

Grace enough

Emily Smucker knows she needs rest. Either from a natural tendency or a teenage bout of West Nile Virus, she gets sick every time she misses sleep, works too hard or neglects time alone. She hoards her energy as a precious resource but tries to remain willing to peel back her boundary for needs she can legitimately meet. “It’s a tricky balance,” she says. 

For all of us, finding that balance calls for Holy Spirit reliance. 

When she is sick and unproductive, Emily feels shame. She clings to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, where God tells the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness,” and Paul realizes “whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 

Our culture of busy doing has many of us believing worth comes through accomplishment. Like Emily, let’s turn from shame to God’s sufficiency. Step off that crazy escalator. Rest, my child. Rest.  

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