Rest … an elusive concept unless you’re experiencing it. I’ve been studying it a lot lately (which can, ironically, take away from the experience OF rest) in a few different places: learning about its role in the self-care of a counselor, meditating on what it means in preparation for a retreat I’m speaking at in March on “Chasing life/longing for rest,” discussing it with my best friend, Katherine, who’s blogging about it now. (see my links for her blog)
There are many different angles of rest and what is referred to as rest. There’s rest in the sense of a Sabbath rest — a deliberate ceasing of accomplishments/activities for one day out of the week. Marva Dawn writes of it in her book I’m reading now – “A Sense of the Call: a Sabbath way of life for those who serve God, the Church, and the world.” Listen to this invitation, and feel your heart leap in hope:
“The Sabbath offers the magnificent gift of an entire day to ponder God’s truth instead of our work, to notice God’s creations of beauty, and to relish God’s goodness in our closest relationships. After a beautiful Sabbath of intellectual rest, we will know ourselves more truly and can pursue paths more closely attuned to God’s own righteousness. … this is the goal of the Sabbath: that we can cease our worrying about time and be released from its constrictions into this weekly experience of eternity.”
Of course, as much as you want this, there are likely 100 reasons that come to your mind of why you can’t possibly afford to do this. I’m challenged by the author’s own story of when she began deliberately resting for one day of the week: when she began working on her doctorate! I don’t want to become legalistic about this, but I think it’s a goal I’m aiming for in my life. I have rested more intentionally in other seasons of my life, and I think I need this reminder to do so again. Marva Dawn points out that what underlies my reluctance to rest is often an over-inflated sense of my importance:
“…our Sabbath ceasing has to begin with an honest assessment of how much we keep depending upon ourselves instead of God — so that we can give up and let everything go for a day. But we have such expectations of ourselves. Sometimes it is quite scary to imagine our disillusionment if we were thoroughly to face the genuine reality of our own lives.”
There is also the sense of rest that should be part of our daily rhythm. This requires me to live within my limits — not to rush from one activity to another — and to be content with what I can and cannot do. The old cliche rings true here that we are not human “do-ings” but human “be-ings.” What is my do-ing to be-ing ratio these days?
And of course, there is the broader sense of the term rest that applies to a way of life in Christ. We are called to come to Jesus, to take His yoke upon us, and to find rest for our weary souls (Matthew 11:28-30). This invitation speaks to souls weary because they continually strive to work for what is already given: salvation found in Christ. I can rest because Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient, and I can rest because I am already loved by my Creator God. I can rest because grace is at work, and my work is the overflow of another Life at work within me. My Redeemer’s words call out to me: “It is finished.” And so I rest.