Because it turns out that sometimes the opposite of drowning is not frantic swimming, but floating on your back and watching the sky pass.
I have been learning a lot about rest recently.
Previously in my Cambridge terms, I have lived a life of busy: busying myself with a multitude of different commitments and things to do. But this last term, by the grace of God I am sure, I have been slowly drawn into a different pace of life, and so I thought I’d reflect back on some of the things that I’ve learned.
- We are called to rest
I remember reading Hebrews around this time of last year and being surprised by the following verses: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)
I remember feeling challenged by the fact that there was no real set aside time of rest in my week. And that although my excuse to myself was that it was Cambridge that prevented me from doing this, I also knew that there were Cambridge students around me that always took Sunday off as part of their following Jesus, and that I had never deliberately chosen to allocate a day for rest even before university (i.e. really, I was struggling with no. 3 on this list). As of Easter term last year, I started to get more serious about allocating Sunday as a day of rest – and, as of the end of this term, I’m not sure how I would ever go back!
- We are made to rest in God
Something that I’ve learned through becoming more serious about the call and need to rest is that not all rest is equal! I know now that for me to have used my Sunday to rest properly there needs to be a chunk of a couple of hours where I am free to just be, by myself, intentionally, with God. In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
I don’t know about you, but from my experience, if life is feeling hard for whatever reason, the times of day that I feel most vulnerable are those when I have stopped or not yet started (like getting up in the morning, or going to sleep in the evening). The reason I feel most vulnerable at these points is because whatever need I have (whether that is energy or peace or comfort) becomes that much more evident when there aren’t any distractions from it. Using the time in a rest day to seek God, means that there is time to not just find myself confronted with my needs, but to lay them out and find rest from those things too. Jesus says “Come to me”.
This invitation is actually all that we are looking for. We can spend our whole lives chasing after things, thinking about what is to come, worrying about and seeking after financial security, hoping for more of x, a job in y, a future with z. But when we think through what it is about these things we want, we realise that actually all we want peace about what is to come, hope for the times of uncertainties, and a future marked by love. I believe that all of those things can be found when opt out of the chasing and instead find rest in Jesus.
- Resting will cost us something
A summary so far: we are called to live in a different rhythm of life because we are made to know, be with and enjoy God – it is in Him that we find rest. And so there are different patterns and rhythms for all the different aspects of our living marked out for us, not to constrain us, but actually to free us from the constraints that come when we pursue things in the ‘default’ setting of this world. Which is why for money we have tithing, for eating we have fasting, and for work we have the Sabbath.
And like tithing or fasting, resting requires sacrifice. When God created the world, he rested not because he needed to, but because it was finished. Resting requires trust that in God it is finished. I don’t need to scrape up time, but can trust God with the demands that I have. Resting is a reminder that God’s purposes (thankfully) are not dependent on any one of us, and cannot be achieved on the little strength we have on our own.
And again, like tithing or fasting, resting is also an act of obedience – resting means that we do what is asked of us – not too much as well as not too little. In 2 Samuel we read that David wants to build God a temple, and God tells David not too because it is not something marked out for him to do. Sometimes there are good things which are so very good, but aren’t a good for us. I know that I have prayed, ‘don’t let me jump in on what isn’t meant for me’ or ‘keep me choosing what you want for me’, many a time because I find it really difficult that there are good things that aren’t a good for me! And these sorts of prayers can be on the large scale of what the future holds, but it can also be on the smaller scale of stopping work and using the evening for other things, even when there’s a temptation to keep going because it would make you feel more secure.
- Some practicalities: small to big
a) What is it that you do when you first get up in the morning? I would suggest that ‘check my phone’ is not the sort of answer that you want to be having! If that’s you (it was definitely me!), think of something that you can replace that habit with. For me, having a book that I read a couple of pages of each morning works really well.
b) How often do you think about or reach for your phone? Do a couple of quick things – turn off push notifications (Settings > Notifications > Edit for each app), disable Chrome/Safari (Settings > General > Restrictions > disable chrome/swipe safari off), and get rid of email (Settings > Accounts > Swipe Mail “Off”, or disable gmail), if the thought of these things scares you definitely do them!
c) Can you name the time in the week that you rest? Does that time serve you well? If you don’t have a specific point in the week, maybe think of entering ‘rest’ into your calendar as a one hour event each week. ‘Intentional’ rest is always better than ‘survival’ rest. Think about what you need to do in that time in order to feel rested, and try prioritizing rest in the same way that you would prioritise other commitments.
d) What prevents you from resting? If resting is really hard it may be good to think about what else is going on in your life. Luckily, the approach to a new year is a great time to be reflecting on what is important to you and which things are helping you become the person you want to be, and which ones perhaps aren’t helping at all!
If you want to think about this some more…
On Busyness – blog post around some verses in James
God’s Invitation to Rest – talk by Yanah Browning, speaking at my church last week
John 15:1-17 – have a slow read through