• Rev. Susan Eaton

Embracing Rest

“Someone needs a nap.”


I remember my mother saying this to me at some point during my childhood. I don’t remember the specific situation or location, only my raging, red-faced response:


“No, I don’t!”


Guess who ended up in nap time.


Even once we grow older, some of us never grow out of the tendency to resist rest. Can you relate? If so, take a moment and consider this question with me:


What role does rest play in your life?


Or maybe a better question is: How do you view rest?


Are you one who thinks of rest as the inevitable interruption to your work— what happens to you after you have completely exhausted yourself? Or do you view rest like some sort of Mr. Snuffleupagus*— something others talk about, that you would love to see and get to know, but remains elusive and unattainable — imaginary?


God didn’t create rest with the intention of keeping it out of our reach. Rest wasn’t designed to be what we begrudgingly give into once our bodies and minds finally crumple in a state of exhaustion. Nor was it designed to be something we experience only after all the work is done. Rather, rest is a gift God wants you to fully experience. It’s to be the fuel, the priority, and the seed for your creativity, energy, and productivity.


Consider the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. Here we see God at work creating and taking joy in His creation, which he called “good”. On Day six, humankind was created which he called “very good”. God’s creating work was complete, and on the seventh day He rested.


What day was humankind created?


Day six.


What day was the day of rest?


Day seven.


Here’s the point:


The first thing we were invited to do was to REST in the work God had done.


God didn’t make us and then say, “Okay then, what are you waiting for? Get to work!” It wasn’t work first, then rest. No, we were invited into rest first. Then from that rest we worked and became co-creators with God in the world.


Now, what does that communicate to us? Well, for one thing, it communicates a beautiful theology of grace. Our being with God and being called very good by God had nothing to do with anything we did. We are loved, we are cherished, we are worthy and valuable—not because of our work and accomplishments—but simply because we are God’s.


We are first to rest knowing that we are enough, and then from that place of “enoughness” we get to produce, create, tend and keep, and then rest again—not because we’ve earned it—but because resting and connecting with God is the source of all good work we do in the world.


Just like the rhythm of night and day, or the rhythm of the rise and fall of the ocean tides, the rhythm God built into creation—the rhythm that enables us to thrive and be well— is REST, then work, REST, then work. Our work is not done appropriately without rest, and rest is not truly possible without work.


I’ve learned that if I am going to have any hope of being an effective leader, patient mother, or compassionate human, I have to have some spaces where I cease my work and allow myself to be led by others, which includes being led into rest.


Two of the places I find rest are the yoga studios I attend. ( www.theyogaroom-ms.com www.poweryogaandmovement.com) This is where I don’t have to lead or think too hard. Someone else is graciously doing that work for me so I can follow and just be present in my body. At the end of the practice, someone may place a cool rag filled with lavender on my forehead, or lead the group through a loving, gentle meditation, or simply give space for silence. Even the work I put in during the practice is restful to me and oh so healthy for my body.


Another place I find rest is in my living room in the morning before anyone else is awake. My usual practice is to read scripture and write in my journal. The other morning, however, even though I had just awakened from a pretty solid night’s sleep, I sensed that I needed to start my day differently. No reading. No writing. Just sitting in the silence with the Lord. But on this particular morning, I needed guidance even to just “be” in the silence. So, I opened up my Exploring Peace podcast (www.exploringpeace.com) and let my friend Whitney lead me through some scriptures and guided meditations. Then, I sat in silence and listened to the rain fall.


Please don’t underestimate the benefits of rest, or the negative side-effects of not enough rest—both physical and spiritual rest. What are those negative side-effects? Well, here’s s short list of some things I notice in myself when I’ve not gotten enough rest:


  • Irritability — Reacting with a sour attitude to the small aggravations of life and negative words of others

  • Lowered compassion

  • Stifled creativity

  • Lack of patience


I recognize this in myself, but I also see it in others. I think we’re all just tired. The past year has been a doozy, and the cumulative stress of it all has many, if not all of us, exhausted. And when we’re exhausted, we act more like a child who has been kept up after bedtime: completely exhausted but in total denial of that fact, even though it’s obvious to everyone else.


If any of this resonates with you, consider the following:


Find a way to unplug.


Choose at LEAST one heavily used appliance or technological device (phone, tv, computer) and let them rest for a time—whether it’s a morning, an afternoon, or an entire day—and then surrender to a quality of time when you will not be disturbed, seduced, or responsive to what your technologies have to offer.


Then, notice how you respond to its absence. Do you feel less valuable? Less needed? Less in touch? Notice what comes up and talk to God about that.


Find a time and place to be still.


Developing the habit of stillness and quiet in the morning or night, allowing yourself enter into the Presence of God through silence and solitude, is a great way to regularly incorporate rest into your life.


Take a walk in nature being mindful of what you hear and see.


When you notice anxious or “busy” thoughts arising, take note of them and let them go, reminding yourself that you are resting and they can wait.


Connect with a friend over a meal or coffee.


Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Be creative and make rest a priority in your life. Your work and your relationships will thrive as a result.


I’ll send you off today with this quote from Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath:


“…by saying no to making some things happen, deep permission arises for other things to happen. When we cease our daily labor, other things—love, friendship, prayer, singing… can be born in the space created by our rest. Walking with a friend, reciting a prayer, caring for children, sharing a meal with family and neighbors—these are intimate graces that need precious time and attention.”


Be well, friends. May you give attention to what brings you rest.




*When he first appeared, many of the adults assumed that "Snuffy" was Big Bird's imaginary friend, due to a series of coincidences and near-miss encounters that continually kept Snuffleupaguses and humans apart.

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