Christian Living

Taking Breaks Isn’t For Wusses

I love when something happens that highlights how far I’ve come. It doesn’t happen super often, but every once in a while, I’ll realize what a 180 I’ve done. Every time I watch the Descendants movies, it reminds me how hard it is to move from one world into another.

Growing up, I learned that taking breaks is for wusses. Successful people push themselves until they’re running on empty, and if you can’t handle the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Think that’s enough metaphors? But seriously, until I got sick seven and a half years ago, I lived that. And it meant I had loads of shame once I got sick and couldn’t be a “contributing member of society.” To me, contributing meant giving 110% to every task in front of me.

This week we did a podcast on how taking breaks isn’t for wusses. Taking breaks is a tangible way to surrender to God. He’s the one who proscribed weekly Sabbaths and daily sleeping enough (Ps. 127:2) and yearly festivals. It’s not easy to stop doing–it forces us to trust instead, to believe that God can pick up the slack in our families, our jobs, our goals, etc., etc. I’m far more likely to want to keep at it day and night. As I said on our show, I have to re-surrender about every 20 minutes on my Sabbath because I keep thinking of things that need done.

Taking breaks gives us mental and emotional room to be more effective the rest of the time. For example, sleep-deprivation acts like alcohol–it slows our reflexes, lowers our critical thinking, and impairs judgment. As a society, we often tout our lack of sleep as some kind of badge of honor, but all we’re really saying is that we’re careless with our lives. We’re trading staying up late for being effective and efficient for the next day.

We’re also giving up change in our lives for the pleasure of having a wall-to-wall schedule. I think that fact more than any other has prompted me to prioritize margin in my schedule. It’s like with plants–if you don’t give them enough room to grow, they don’t thrive. We need room in our schedules in order to thrive. Without it, we’ll be miserable and we’ll stay the same miserable people as long as our schedule continues. Without room to process what we’ve learned, to learn new things, to have conversations and relationships, to sit with Jesus, to read, and to think, we can’t grow. One of my worst fears is that I will be the same person 20 years from now as I am today. I can’t imagine carrying the same amount of baggage for decades. It makes me tired just thinking about it!

So! Challenge: Surrendering your time takes actually doing something. It’s not a faith without works deal. For me, surrendering my time means kneeling in the morning and praying over my schedule, taking a Sabbath, and I’m working on going to bed on time. If you already do all those, way to go! If not, pick one and start adding it to your schedule. If you’d like a little public accountability, write which one you’re going to do in a comment.

Taking Breaks Is Not For Wusses-2

 

 

Christian Living

Sabbath Margin

Providentially, the next Bible study I’m working my way through is Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe. It’s about Sabbath. I’m really loving this study, you guys! If rest and margin are issues you struggle with, it’s definitely worth doing!

I really enjoyed that God put it right after doing the week on self-control in Beth Moore’s study on the fruit of the Spirit. Rest is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. I’m better at it than I used to be but I still feel like I lack margin. In week one, Priscilla talked about how God created rest on the 7th day after creation. She springboards from there in a few directions.

First, rest is something intentional. My “rest” tends to be a cessation of labor that comes when I’m either overwhelmed or just plain exhausted. I learned though that that’s not actually rest. Rest is proactive rather than reactive. Rest takes self-control and discipline to create.

Second, God rested. We live in a society (and I was raised) that believes rest is a sign of weakness or laziness, that we’re inconsiderate if we say no to ministry opportunities so we can rest instead, or that our worth is dependent on how much we do. The fact that God rests is in direct contradiction to those things. God isn’t weak. He isn’t lazy. And He’s not inconsiderate. Nor can He gain or lose worth–He just is. So, when I rest, I’m not being lazy. I’m not weak for resting. Resting doesn’t make me a bad person who is inconsiderate or worth less than I would be if I was busy all the time. I don’t know about you, but those are all things I know intellectually. Putting God in the equation gave me a different perspective; I’m not about to argue God is lazy/weak/worth less for resting, so why do I believe that about myself?

Third, Priscilla talked about how God gave the Sabbath to the Israelites when they were leaving Egypt and she argues that it’s because the Sabbath can set our hearts free (something the Israelites desperately needed after generations of slavery). Sabbath forces us to uncouple doing and worth, getting rid of performance-oriented worth. It disconnects time and accomplishments. We have to acknowledge that God is the source of our accomplishments because we’re taking breaks. It makes us let go of control. For several years now, I’ve taken a break from writing on my Sabbath and it’s sometimes a little stressful. I can tell when I’m starting to panic over finishing my book because I don’t want to take that break.

Unfortunately, rest doesn’t just happen. As I mentioned, it’s created. It’s about putting walls around various areas of our lives so we have margin. Margin is so key for life! A few weeks ago, I learned that the creative/problem-solving part of your brain shuts down when you don’t have margin. All our busyness is making us less productive–like hamsters who compare how far they’ve run on their wheels instead of hamsters who get off the wheel and actually go somewhere.

So what about you? Are you too busy? Do you have enough margin in your life to work smarter instead of harder? How can you create more margin?

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An Internal Art Form

Do you ever get so focused on getting from point A to point B in your day that you forget even why you’re going to point B? It’s so easy to go through the motions, isn’t it? Some days I find myself doing that. For instance, I get caught up in just getting through my kids’ homework vs. making sure they actually understand the concepts.

Recently at my Tai Chi class we were talking about how Tai Chi is an internal art form, but it’s not always taught that way. It’s so interesting: because of the differences between eastern thought and western thought there are some things that are just hard to translate in a way that makes sense to our western mindset. In my opinion, Peter Ralston has done an amazing job of actually translating those concepts into a way that’s understandable. A while back I talked about the five principles–being calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, and whole and total–and what the corresponding spiritual reality is–trusting God, surrender, living out of the essence of who God has made you to be, being grounded in who God is, and being engaged with the entirety of who you are and what’s actually happening around you (vs. what you wish/mistakenly think is happening).

My teacher was talking about how the first Tai Chi class he attended taught the choreography of the form, but didn’t talk at all about the principles–which is nuts because the principles are 95% of Tai Chi. It’s so sad. I can’t imagine taking the principles out of the form. Without the principles, the form is pretty, but it’s not functional. For instance, if you try to push something with your arms alone, you have less power than if you utilize your whole body. Tai Chi is an internal art form–95% of it you can’t see. You can’t see if someone is calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, whole and total–although you can make some pretty accurate guesses from observing them. And you can’t relax for someone else. You can encourage them to relax, but you can’t do the work for them.

Christianity is the same way: 95% of it is all the connection with God and hanging onto who you are in Christ–it’s stuff that isn’t visible. When we focus on the things that are visible–e.g., whether you attend church, read your Bible, pray, etc., etc., etc.–we are missing out on the majority of what’s important. It may look all shiny and nice on the outside, but it’s not functional. I don’t know about you, but I need reminded of that occasionally. I love that God is the power behind, um, well, everything in my life. He’s the power for me to stay calm when I’m late and stuck behind someone driving five miles under the speed limit. He’s the power for me to listen to my children and tell them that I love them the way they are. He’s the power for me to write when things are going awesome and when I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall. He’s the power for me to love my neighbor even when I don’t feel like it.

I hate to say it, but if you’re focused on the 5%, you’re not doing okay. There’s so much more to life, to thriving and abundance and joy in Christ than that 5%. As I tell my kids, stop, take a deep breath and regroup. Reconnect with the 95%. Nobody can do it for you–Christianity is an internal art form.

 

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Blooming Where You’re Planted

It has been a crazy past several weeks. I had a couple weeks where I felt so much better than usual that I tried to catch up on 3 years worth of neglected projects and then I’ve had the past month where I’m not sleeping and barely functional. It’s been a weird time.

I find that when I’m feeling well, I switch into fix-it mode and get focused on making up for lost time. When I feel awful, I switch into survival mode. As I was meditating on this reality, I was re-struck by how easy it is to be in desperation mode. Either I’m desperate to fix things or I’m desperate to survive. I’ve learned that I need to rest in God’s character, which gets rid of all desperation. It opens up the door to thriving. The same way my daughters don’t worry about how we’ll have food to eat or a place to live or pay the bills, etc., etc., etc., I don’t have to worry. I can trust that God will take care of us. I’m not saying we can be lazy, obviously. I’m saying we can just chill and bloom wherever we are, moment by moment. I don’t have to expend all my energy trying to get somewhere else. I should be faithful.

This is hard for me! I don’t want to be faithful when things are difficult and painful. I’d much rather spend time escaping from reality or try to change reality. I don’t want to relax and let God carry me wherever He will… be obedient from moment to moment, trusting that God will work out the details of whatever we’re going through. It’s like in Tai Chi, where relaxation opens up the door to strength. When you’re relaxed, you’re like a garden hose with no kinks. When you’re tensed up and trying to force things, you’re full of kinks. If I’m always fighting the current, I’ll always be exhausted and frustrated. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to mentally know that without heart knowing it. It’s easy to admit desperation leaves me worn out and then to try harder, to be even more desperate, instead of being willing to do something different. Maybe that’s because blooming where you’re planted requires a character change. Right now, the old me is incapable of relaxing. I’ve seen glimmers of the new me off and on the past year or two. But, like Murtagh in Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series, I need a change from the inside out. I need re-characterized.

God, re-characterize me with faith and obedience, with trust and rest. Change me, Lord, so that my default is blooming wherever You have me instead of desperation. Thank You so much that You never stop working on me. Lord, I am so blessed that You work day after day to make me over into Your image. Please change me today. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Finding Emotional Rest

So in my post on mental rest, I actually addressed worry, which is both emotional and mental. Emotional rest covers a wide variety of issues–just ask yourself if you ever feel like you experience an emotion that’s taking a lot of energy and you can find areas you need God’s rest in. I had a day a couple of weeks ago where I felt really energized and cheerful for most of the day, which is VERY unusual for me (I usually run out of spoons by about 10 a.m. :)). I was pondering why I felt so great and suddenly realized that I wasn’t in any pain (also really unusual). It really re-reminded me how draining/exhausting pain is.

Emotional stressors are like that. We carry around bitterness and shame, etc. without realizing what a toll it’s taking on us. I think one of the saddest things to see is someone who’s been lugging around the same emotional baggage for years and years. I don’t know about you, but I want to figure out what my baggage is and unpack it so I won’t be carrying the same junk 10 years from now. There are much better things to spend my time and energy on than baggage.

I’ve kicked around writing on shame or bitterness, despite having already written copious amounts on them in my book, but I keep losing my drafts so maybe God’s trying to tell me something. The emotional rest I’ve found in Christ is so amazing–more than I ever hoped for. By the time I reached college I had many, many pounds of baggage, and I just expected that I would have to manage life with it. And then God started working a miracle. I still have plenty of issues to work through, but I’m not carrying the acres of junk I started out with.

I think the first place I had to come to was understanding who God is. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth” (NIV). It was only once I stopped pretending my baggage wasn’t there, or trying to blame it on other people, or downplay the sheer amount of it, that I made progress. It was in just sitting with it before the Lord and admitting I couldn’t do anything to change the amount I had… in finally admitting I wasn’t God, that I was able to know God was God. And then the more time I spent in His presence and reading His Word, the more I came to know four crucial things about Him. And those four things ripped up all the excuses I had used to explain my baggage.

1) God is holy. There is no darkness in Him at all. And He can’t tolerate any darkness. Sitting in His holiness opened my eyes to the depth of my own sin… it forced me to take responsibility for my issues–to realize that I had developed sinful survival skills. Even though they saved me at the time, to continue in them is sin. And sitting in His holiness showed me that He is incapable of working evil in my life, which really helped with my trust issues (at least as far as God is concerned).

2) God loves me, and you. In the cross we see the embodiment of that love (Romans 5:8). Jesus died for me. Just sit with that for a moment. Re-read Matthew 26-28 if you’re a little fuzzy on the actual events. Jesus suffered and died. Yes, He did it to satisfy God’s holiness. Yes, He did it because God will judge sin. But, more than that, He did it for you. Hebrews 12:3 says that He did it for the joy set before Him. How much love would it take for you to die a horrible death for someone and consider it a joy because you were rescuing them from the hatred they had for you?

3) Because God loves me, He always wants what is best for me. I love how Lewis talks about God’s love: that it is a terrible love, relentlessly working to make the beloved more lovely, even when the beloved would prefer to remain as they are. Sometimes the things God has allowed in my life have quite frankly sucked. But then I see what He’s done with them and I wouldn’t trade them for anything–it’s like the transition from a lump of dirty coal to a valuable diamond. You don’t have to like the coal, but you can’t get the diamond without it.

4) God is God and I am not. I have no right to play God in anyone else’s life. I have no right to play God in my own life. I can’t judge or punish someone else, even just by refusing to forgive them. I can’t judge or punish myself. I am fundamentally incapable of distinguishing between truth and lies apart from God. My only safety lies in running back to Him (which I am willing to do because of #1 & #2).

Whenever I feel myself falling into worry or bitterness towards someone or resentment over situations or shame, I try to run back to God’s character and take refuge there, to be still and know that He is God. He will be exalted among all people. He will be exalted in the earth.

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Physical Rest

So this post you get to listen in to me preaching at my own soul. I need this message. I struggle in this area. And frankly, the past couple of weeks, I have done a particularly wretched job of applying these principles.

Several posts ago, I talked about how rest isn’t optional and mentioned how God gave Elijah food and sleep to rest and Jesus gave his disciples time away from the crowds to eat and rest. These are good examples of physical rest. By physical rest, I mean giving my body the things it needs to thrive. I tend to be a go-go-go, push-your-body-to-the-wall-until-it-collapses type. Or at least when things are busy, you should just push on through, right?

You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest. Exd 34:21 NASB

Plowing and harvest time are the major push seasons in a farmer’s year. God still commands them to rest even when things are busy. I’ve often wondered if somehow adding rest into the equation when things are nutso would give me the stamina to perform to a higher standard (this doesn’t mean I’ve practiced it much though!). I know that not resting drains me and adds to my stress level. I used to work in an office where my boss required ALL my time. He would literally send people into the bathroom/break room/etc. to tell me to hurry up because he needed me right then. Two years of working there did a whammy on my physical and emotional health.

Our bodies are designed to need breaks. Not enough sleep and a) our bodies don’t have time to do self-repair and b) you end up with the symptoms of drunkenness–the lack of judgment, the loss of short-term memory, the inability to walk straight–and then whatever you’re working on is done poorly anyway (not that I would know that from experience *ahem*). Anyway, after years of believing I can manage quite well on 6 hours of sleep, I now have adrenal fatigue and feel like I am dragging my way through much of my day. Statistically, Americans skimp on sleep. So, in the midst of my own auto-immune issues, my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves to get 10-12 hours a night for the next month (i.e., to start our bedtime routine when the kids go to bed rather than spending a couple more hours tidying or watching a movie, etc., etc.). We’ll see how it goes.

Not enough eating and your body goes into starvation mode (which mimics adrenal fatigue). I’m bad at this one too. I get in the middle of something and figure I will eat when I finish and somehow it’s the end of the day and I still haven’t eaten. Or my kids will be fussy and I don’t want to eat and listen to them fuss so I wait until they’re busy and suddenly it’s mid-afternoon before I have breakfast. Or in previous years, I’ve been on a diet and don’t eat enough calories for my body to properly function. Sometimes I wonder what God thinks of all the emphasis on weight loss. I know we’re not supposed to be gluttons, but is it really ok to deprive our bodies of certain vital nutrients (e.g., carbs or protein) or to cut calories as a shortcut to looking like we’re healthy on the outside?

Physical rest, i.e., taking good care of my physical body also involves things like making time to wash my hair and sitting down sometimes. As a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to skimp on stuff like that. My to-do list is never, ever, ever done–someone always needs something else, like fed or their owies kissed, etc., etc., etc.

Anyway! A couple years ago I did Beth Moore’s Psalms of Ascent study and she really put her finger on why I struggle with skipping physical rest.

A Song of Ascents, of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. – Psa 127:1-2 NASB

I don’t stop to rest, because I believe I am responsible to get the thing done. I don’t ask God for help with the every day tasks. And, as I’ve said, I’ve believed the lie that my job is to complete my to-do list, rather than faithfully stay at it.

So, self, rather than going non-stop all hours of the day, take time to nurture your body. God gave it to you as a stewardship, so it’s not laziness–it’s obedience.

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This Is Not a Detour: Finding Mental Rest

I don’t know about you, but mental rest is something I really struggle with. I am a worrier and a planner–just *slightly* on the control-freakish side. My husband likens my brain to a computer with 100+ windows open at all times.

The past several weeks I’ve had increased pain levels… mostly it’s been exhausting because I haven’t been able to find a position where I have less pain. And in case you’ve somehow forgotten, we just had Easter. This is significant in my life because the day after Easter three years ago was when my joint symptoms began, the day I started exploring this world of auto-immune disease.

I’ve also been re-reading one of my favorite series’: The Mallorean by David Eddings. And as I’ve been fussing a little to God about how I don’t like where I’m at right now, I happened to read through these passages:

Garion suddenly banged his fist on the rail in frustration. “Supposed to!” he burst out. “I don’t care about what we’re supposed to do. I want my son back. I’m tired of creeping around trying to satisfy all the clever little twists and turns of the Prophecy. What’s wrong with just ignoring it and going right straight to the point?”
Belgarath’s face was calm as he looked out at the rust-colored cliffs half-hidden in the gray drizzle. “I’ve tried that a few times myself,” he admitted, “but it never worked–and usually it put me even further behind. I know you’re impatient, Garion, and sometimes it’s hard to accept the idea that following the Prophecy is really the fastest way to get where you want to go, but that’s the way it always seems to work out.” (Vol. 1, 475)
“Let’s look at things from a practical point of view, though. When we started out, we were half a year behind Zandramas and we were planning a very tedious and time-consuming trek across Cthol Murgos–but we kept getting interrupted.”
“Tell me about it,” Silk said sardonically.
“Isn’t it curious that after all these interruptions, we’ve reached the eastern side of the continent ahead of schedule and cut Zandramas’ lead down to a few weeks?”
Silk blinked, and then his eyes narrowed.
“Gives you something to think about, doesn’t it?” (Vol. 1, 563)

When my plans get re-arranged, it’s easy to huff and puff about how this isn’t what I wanted to be doing, what I planned to be doing. But mental rest means that I can trust God to lead me wherever I’m supposed to go, therefore I can stop worrying and obsessing over the future. I can trust that He knows the way ahead and that my loving Father will provide for whatever is ahead. (See “The Resting Place” in Tales from a Spacious Place for more expounding.) No matter how it looks, whatever I’m going through is not a detour, it’s part of the plan.

Does this mean I should stop planning? Um, no, that would fall into the category of laziness, like the Proverbial sluggard. The ant plans, without obsessing over the future.

And finally, there’s a profound mental rest that comes from knowing things turn out all right in the end. I need that reassurance, especially on days when it feels like nothing is turning out all right.

So what does this look like on a practical level? I’m sure it varies from person to person, but these are three things I try to practice for myself and with my kids whenever I’m worried/scared/giving in to despair.

1) I whip out my verse cards (actually, I try to whip them out preventatively–keeping one set on the kitchen counter and one in the bathroom). I have passages like Matthew 6:25-34 and Isaiah 40:27-31 there. Worry is based on an unreality and takes your mind to places that don’t yet exist (and may never do so). Truth is our ammunition to get rid of those lies.

2) I slow down, take deep breaths, and explore the moment I’m in. Pretend you’re looking at wildlife. Don’t judge what’s there, just examine what’s around. What does this moment look like? What are the good things in this moment? What are the not-so-good things? More often than not, the positive things outweigh the negatives, but I can’t see them when I’m focused on the negative. Slowing down forces me to re-evaluate whether my worries actually match reality.

3) I read through old journals or talk to a friend to remember the ways God has come through for me in the past, whether that’s Him getting rid of the stressor or using it in my life to work something amazing.

What are some practical ways you pursue mental rest?

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Spiritual Rest

As we’ve just finished Easter, I thought this would be a good place to start. I don’t know about in your own spiritual journey, but I tried following rules before I succumbed to grace. If you’ve never tried earning your own salvation, let me tell you, it’s an exhausting prospect. It’s literally impossible to do right things with right motives all the time. And even if you could, any wrong things you’d done (or right things with wrong motives) would still be around proclaiming your sinful state (if you want to read more on this subject, I addressed it pretty thoroughly in my book Tales from a Spacious Place, pp 187-208). I spent quite a lot of time trying to cross all my t’s and dot all my i’s, and then I just gave up because nothing I did or didn’t do seemed to make any difference.

And that is when grace came in. God taught me that what I was incapable of doing on my own, He had done. Jesus lived a perfect life and died for me. He traded records with me. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus’ righteousness, rather than my sin.

It’s easy to come to an understanding of the Gospel and apply it at a single moment in time. I still find myself caught in a performance trap with God at times. But that isn’t who I truly am. The Gospel still applies to every moment of my life, not just that moment of salvation. Spiritual rest means that I stop trying to earn God’s favor, stop trying to live a right life on my own, stop putting on a show for God. Instead I rest in what Jesus has already done. I was so wicked that God had to die for me. I am so loved that He did it willingly and joyfully. Once the Gospel has permeated every facet of our existence there is such peace. No need to impress. No need to muster up love or any other part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Just relying on Him to work in and through and for me.

This kind of rest can’t be forced. And it can’t be faked. It can only be given by God. Where are you at with God? Are you spending all your time striving? Do you wear a mask with Him? He is so ready to rescue you from your own perfectionism. He is so ready to love you for who you are.

God, thank You for making rest impossible apart from You! Thank You for creating that need, so that we wouldn’t wander through our lives oblivious to You. Jesus, thank You for dying to bring us true rest. Change our hearts. Lord, we need spiritual rest and You are the only one who has it. Root us and ground us in Your love, so that we are never tempted to be anything less than real with You. We come to You as broken, tired people. Teach us the truth of Your Gospel in all the rest of the moments we have. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Rest is…

So now that we’ve looked at the command to rest and the merits of resting, what exactly is rest? How do we practically apply this command?

Since the Sabbath is the quintessential example of rest, I went back to those passages on it. In Exodus 16:22-30 gives us a glimpse of the Israelites’ Sabbath while in the desert. God commands them to gather twice as much manna and prepare it the day before so that they can rest on the Sabbath. Initially, they try the gathering-enough-manna-for-two-days thing on a non-day-before-Sabbath day and then the manna gets all nastily full of worms. And they actually go out to gather on the Sabbath (no manna in sight) and are rebuked.

Frankly, this is what my “resting” looks like a lot of the time. I rest when it’s time to be diligent. I don’t rest when it’s time to rest. I don’t trust God to provide. This seems like a key feature of rest–we rest because we trust God to provide. Just like Psalm 127:1-2 says: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves” (or alternate translation: “for while they sleep he provides for those he loves”) (NIV). Rest involves a big mind shift. If we think we are self-sufficient and that our labor is what provides for us, we’ve got a problem. Whether we grow our own food or work at a job and buy food from our wages, God has still provided.

In the New Testament, we see this principle repeated: God provides rest. Jesus Himself says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Mat 11:28-30 (NIV)

Rest is only found in the context of our relationship with God, regardless of if it’s physical rest or spiritual rest. The more I study rest, the more I’m coming to the conclusion that it is primarily a heart issue. Don’t you hate things like that? I would much rather have things be cut and dry… measurable. But rest seems to defy that sort of measurement. For instance, sleep can be a sign of resting in God or can be a sign of laziness. Not sleeping can reflect a heart full of sins like fear and pride, or it might be that God’s called me to do something (e.g., Paul preaching through the night). For me, it tends to be a control issue–can I let go of my illusion of control and trust God to take care of things while I rest? And can I do it before my body forces me to give up control? (check out “The Resting Place” in Tales from a Spacious Place if you want to see more on this)

Scripturally, we aren’t commanded to keep the Sabbath, but that doesn’t let us off the hook for resting. We need rest, just like we need oxygen, and ignoring that need is as ridiculous as refusing to put on an oxygen mask during a flight emergency. In an effort to put our own masks on first, our family decided to implement a weekly Sabbath after listening to a series by our pastor, Mike Priest (3/15/09-4/5/09). Taking a break reminds us of important things–that God is in control, that He provides for us as a loving father provides for his children, and that obeying Him is life-giving–and gives us margin in our lives.

So how do you practically apply this concept of rest? How are you diligent to rest? I’ve already started writing up my answer to this question, but I’ll leave you here so you can start thinking about your own life first. 🙂

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The Merits of Rest

I don’t know about you, but most days I feel like I have acres of things to do. Logically, it seems like resting would be antithetical to accomplishing the maximum number of things possible in a day, despite the fact that God commands us to do it. However, as I’ve been wrestling and praying through this concept of rest over the past couple of years, these two analogies keep coming back to me–lenses through which to help me see the benefits of rest. Maybe they’ll be as helpful for you as they have been for me.

First off, I’ve mentioned before that I take a Tai Chi class. I have been so blessed to be attending the perfect class for me–for starters, everyone in the class has moderate to severe health problems, so I blend right in. 🙂 I also have been so challenged by some of the perspective shifts involved in Tai Chi… it’s all about doing more with less effort. Peter Ralston calls it “effortless power.” Here’s an exercise you can try to see what I mean: Face a wall, standing arm’s length away. Stick your arm straight out in front of you. Tense up all the muscles in your arm and shoulder. Eyeball where your hand is in relation to the wall. Now relax all those muscles and check where your hand is at. I have found the more muscles I can relax, the greater my reach is. This matters in a martial setting where you want to have greater reach when you defend yourself/attack someone. I have had to completely rethink my understanding of punches. I always thought you punched with your arm muscles necessitating tense arms. Now I’ve learned your punch packs a much greater wallop if you relax your muscles because then you have the entire weight of your body behind the punch and you can reach further.

Rest likewise increases our reach and our stamina. I see this every time my husband and I start thinking we can stay up late and watch a movie (i.e., every time we expect our kids to “sleep in”). Being tired the next day means I’m fussy and my brain is foggy. It takes more time to do my tasks and I tend to make more mistakes. Resting means we’re able to do more with less effort.

Secondly, I’ve also been thinking about how God carries us along through His plan, like a log being carried in the stream. Often I spend so much time worrying about the rocks in my path (and frankly, trying to swim upstream) that I lose sight of what’s important. Resting in God’s character and sovereignty allows me to chill out and trust Him to either steer me around the rocks or use them to alter my trajectory so I don’t miss out on something amazing.

Just like diligence plans and spends time on the things that are important, rest trusts God to take care of the things we can’t change, or the things we’re not supposed to be focusing on. The more I’ve meditated on rest, the more I’ve realized my lack of rest is a reflection of my unbelief–I don’t rest because I don’t want to let go. I want to monitor every detail of every thing that touches my life… and I want to do more than I should be doing–putting extra things on my to-do list. Frankly, I’m learning that not resting can be pretty exhausting.