One thing I have learned in the last few months is the importance of rest. In my professional career, rest was not given priority. As a matter of fact, the people who rested were perceived as lazy or out of touch with reality. I recall a fellow seminary student asking me last year if sleep was a waste of my time. I replied, “It used to be.” How can one sleep when there is so much to do? Clearly, I was the one who was out of touch.
When I entered the wilderness, one of God’s first words to me was “rest.” I meditated on Mark 6:30-32 (NIV):
The apostle gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
In this passage, Jesus’ purpose was to get the disciples away from their work (or ministry), away from people, away from the noise and distractions of life and to a place that is quiet and solitary so that they could rest, be present together, and most assuredly, he would minister to them there.
We all need rest, but what is “rest” exactly? Don’t look for the textbook answer. Consider: what does “rest” mean and what can it look like for you. For me, I have determined that rest means:
1. Stopping or putting the pause button on the busyness of my day-to-day life
2. Coming away from people to a solitary place (there must be quiet, no distractions, no responsibilities, and no time constraints).
3. Being in the Lord’s presence through prayer, scripture reading, meditation, Bible study, journaling, and singing songs of praise and worship. Occasionally, rest has also included fasting, naps, and enjoying other simple pleasures of God.
You can enter your solitary place alone or intentionally with a small group of other people (like the disciples were encouraged to do), but the point is to focus on the Lord and not simply “hang out.”
Rest includes weekly Sabbaths (we will probably talk more about that later), personal retreats (which do not have to cost money), or simply carving out periods of time where you “deobligate” yourself. The last point is critical because in my short time of taking “rest” seriously, I have discovered something.
Many of us are way too hard on ourselves. We take ourselves too seriously to the point of feeling guilty when we prioritize rest. We have limited ourselves to self-imposed obligations which eat precious time not realizing that God has something so much richer for us. We allow ourselves to be manipulated by others about what it is we should be doing (yes, this often occurs in the church and especially among women and moms).
Our overproduction-driven American society and culture (even within the church), sometimes wants us to believe it is selfish to say, “I need a break.” That is a lie which needs rejecting. If Jesus encouraged his disciples that they needed rest, how much more do we?
In the next post, we will talk about the purpose of this kind of rest.
How are you resting in the Lord? Is “rest” a priority for you? How would you encourage others to rest?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012