Thanks to my sabbatical last fall, I have a better understanding of what rest looks like. Previously I thought it was a nap or sitting quietly or meditating. Rest can be those, but it’s also much more. For me rest is slowing down – so instead of running, I walk; instead of reading a whole book, I read a chapter at a time; instead of making a quilt, I create a quilt block. I’m still active, I’m still moving, but it’s more intentional activity and movement. It’s activity that brings me rest. It’s movement that has a deeper purpose.
Rest requires trust. It’s hard to rest when your identity and purpose is found purely in work. Alan Fadling addresses this in his first book An Unhurried Life. He wrote:
If I do more, I am more. If I have more, I am more. If more people like and recognize me, I’m more valuable. This idea is subtle, and insidious in it’s undermining of the Sabbath. What happens to our sense of identity when we stop our activity to observe the Sabbath day? If I am what I do, who am I on a Sabbath day when I do nothing productive? (115).
Resting requires trust that I am more than my work. Resting requires trust that if I don’t read my email today, the church will be forward without me. If I don’t respond to that non-emergency work text right away, they will figure things out until I do respond. Resting requires trusting in a system larger than me that will move forward if I take a day off!
A few weeks ago I had my usual day off on Friday. However, for some reason, I had this desire to get All Things Done that day. I finished a quilt block with enough time to take the dog for a walk before I had to leave for yoga and then make a quick stop a Joann’s before cleaning the house and then completing one more quilt project. This was clearly not a day off! I didn’t trust that any of these things would get done if I slowed down. Or, if they didn’t get done, I was inadequate. Instead of respecting my day off – my Sabbath day – I hijacked it. Instead of allowing myself space to rest, I robbed myself of the gift and filled with constant “doing.”
And that night and the next day? I was wiped out. I was exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to be present to what was in front of me. I knew Sabbath was important and had a purpose, but I forgot. I got sucked into the culturally approved method of Go! Go! Go! And then I paid for it. I was overworked, overtired and not worth much of anything.
There’s a reason our bodies need to sleep every night. There’s a reason every exhale is followed by an inhale. There’s a reason bulbs are planted in fall and don’t bloom until the spring. There’s a reason winter is darker than summer. There’s a reason for rest. Without rest I get irritable and irrational. Without rest I laugh less and complain more.
The world will keep on spinning whether I rest or not. My workplace will keep on functioning whether I rest or not. I can choose to believe it’s all about me and work.work.work to make myself feel like I have control over it all. Or, I can rest and admire all the systems that go on without me. I can rest and remember once again that I’m far from the center of the Universe. I can rest knowing that my rest won’t negatively impact the world – in fact, my rest will make the world a better place.
Rest. I want to do more of that this Lent. I want to slow down. I want to regain some of what I experienced during my sabbatical. I can rest easily because I’ve finally learned the world is not resting on my shoulders – what a relief.