Life is full. About 9 months or so ago I realised that “busy” was fast becoming my stock answer to “how are you doing?”. I don’t know if others noticed but I was definitely getting bored of this reply! So I decided to stop. Life is always busy, the real question is with what. I have started preferring the word “full”! It may just be code for busy but at least it feels like a more interesting answer!
In my “full” life, managing work life, home life, raising two little girls under the age of 3 and running a school of ministry on the side I have been on an intentional pursuit to understand rest.
Ah rest, it feels soothing just saying the word. But what does it realistically look like in this season of life. We might imagine sitting on a beach listening to the waves lapping on the shore as the sun set lights up the sky in a warm glow. A far cry from nappies, meltdowns and sleepless nights, filling calendars and ever growing todo lists. Also a far cry from 99% of normal life.
I do think that regular breaks are an important part of rest, a vital time for reflection, relaxation and fun. I think the more interesting question though is how do we live from rest and not simply live to rest?
Right back in the creation account we discover God rests. An amazing thing in itself (did he put his out of office on?). On the seventh day he rested, and so we get the model of a day of rest for us too, the Sabbath as it came to be known. For most of us the idea is that we work so that we can rest. However when we read the creation account we discover that Adam and Eve were created on day six. What did they spend their first day doing? Resting. They began with rest, not work.
Now the idea of Sabbath, or rest day is fast disappearing from our culture (at least in the UK). I still remember being discouraged from shopping on a Sunday as a child. But this day of rest, an amazing habit to build into our schedules, is again a distraction from the main question I am asking. How do we live from rest?
Well, I don’t pretend to be an expert but I do have a few simple observations which I hope you find helpful
Rest is an inside job
Rest, the rest the bible speaks of is an inside job. It is to do with our internal world and how we manage ourselves. Don’t wait for someone else to take responsibility for your state of rest.
Get to know yourself. Pay attention to your internal world. What things cause you turmoil, disturb your peace. Where is the angst or insecurity. How has the day taken its toll?
Ultimately rest is found in God. Both in an awareness of his presence and an understanding of who he is and who he has made you to be. Regularly reconnecting your inner world to the source of life resets your rest. So often my lack of rest is simply a sign I have stepped away from my awareness of who God is and who he says I am. I have let circumstances rule my internal world and lost connection to the Prince of Peace.
Rest is not the absence of activity (necessarily)
Sometimes we feel that all we need is to sit down and do sweet nothing to rest. Sometimes that is true, often it is not. I have met some really busy people, who make my schedule look like a permanent holiday and yet they are actually very restful people. When I read about Jesus’s life it sounds “full”. Interruptions galore. Pray for this person, come see this person, feed the thousands. Yet I believe he had an uninterrupted connection with his Father that kept him at peace. What greater illustration than the way he calmed the storm. That is the kind of rest I am in pursuit of.
Rest all of me
The bible is clear that we have three parts to us. Our body, soul and spirit. Each of these need rest. I can rest my body and still have my soul or spirit in turmoil for example. The flip side of that however, is that the three are interlinked. You can’t divide them or place them into neat little boxes. The state of our body, affects our soul, the state of our soul affects our spirit and the state of our spirit or soul can affect our body. Each one impacts the other. It is not as neat as we might like.
All that to say – different things rest different parts of you. Learning about yourself is going to be the first step in identifying where you need rest. Do you need physical rest or sleep? Or do you need emotional rest or healing? Starting to learn the difference helps. Asking God for insight is always a great idea.
As I read through Hebrews recently I was struck by this verse on the topic.
for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest… Hebrews 4:10-11
I love this verse because it tells us we must make effort to rest. It seems counterintuitive and yet it reveals the fact that we must be intentional about maintaining rest. It does not just happen through absence of activity. I can not work for a day and still return to work exhausted depending on what that day contained.
I’m still learning in this area but I am hoping to learn what it is to live a life of rest, no matter the circumstances or season I am in. For me this endeavour is about more than surviving but thriving. How can I be as healthy as possible to be as effective as possible for the Kingdom in a sustainable way. The answer is not found in simply doing more now at the expense of my health but rather in discovering the life giving power of rest. Taking the moments in the midst of the mayhem. Finding rest in creativity and connection. Discovering a life of rest.
What tips have you found for living a life of rest?