-Rebecca Preston, MA, Spiritual Director
My husband works from home, but his offices are in San Diego, California. San Diego happens to be one of his most favorite places in the world. He goes there several times a year and this last time, he invited me to come along to have a mini-vacation. His company gives him a choice of several places to stay, one of which is a resort close to the beach. Since the beach is one of my most favorite places, there really was no argument from me.
However, I had only just started a new job. I didn’t feel I needed a rest after working there for such a short time, but when I approached my supervisor she urged me to go.
We arrived and the place we stayed was certainly lovely and conducive to resting, but I felt… restless. There were things I could do for my job at a distance, several writing projects to work on, and some reading to do. And I did those things. Yet while I went through the motions, I struggled to relax enough to rest.
Then one of the days as I sat on the beach and watched the waves crash into the surf, my mind and body came into sync. Finally, I realized this was a gift of rest that I had not asked for, but was given. I wondered why such a resistance to rest? Did I not deserve it? Was there some guilt at staying at such a nice place? What was going on?
From Scripture, we can see God’s approval of rest, his encouragement to take time off. Even one of his commandments entreats us to be like him and take a day to do nothing.
Like Father, like Son. In Mark 6, the disciples have come off of a strenuous work schedule and Jesus says,
“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
It ended up that they couldn’t, because the people began to follow them, which led to the feeding of the multitudes. However, it is intriguing to me to see how Jesus felt it was so important to take the time to rest and refresh themselves. He models this frequently in the gospels as he heads up to the mountains to rest and pray in communion with his Father.
If you troll the internet, you will find many articles on the benefits of rest. In one such article, they claimed that resting helps with decision making, wards off depression, boosts memory, aids in avoiding strokes, and helps to keep you slim. *
The God who made us and knows us intimately did not give us arbitrary advice. Rest is as important as any of the Spiritual Disciplines we can practice.
According to Dallas Willard “one of the most important spiritual activities is getting adequate sleep.”
The following prayer by Richard Foster in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, spoke to me in my difficulty in truly resting, and shows me that I am not alone.
“Blessed Savior, I am not good at resting in the hollow of your hand. Nothing in my experience has taught me this resting. I have been taught how to take charge. I have been taught how to be in control. But how to rest? No, I have no models, no paradigms for resting. This is not exactly right.
Jesus, when you walked among the Jerusalem crowds and in the Judean hills, you pioneered this way of living. You were always alert and alive. You lived utterly responsive to the will of the Father. Manifold demands were placed upon you, and still you walked in unhurried peace and power.
Help me to walk in your steps. Teach me to see only what you see, to say only what you say, to do only what you do. Help me, Lord, to work resting and to pray resting.
I ask this in your good and strong name. Amen.”**
So I began to relax. Whether I deserved this rest was not mine to determine, it was a gift from God, and I graciously received it. When I came home with all the pressures of everyday life back on me, I walked a little slower and felt less hurried. Certainly, the after effects of a time of rest.
Do you take the time to rest in the busyness of your life? How can you take the opportunity to rest and be comfortable with it? God encourages it for us. Only good can come from a time of resting.
*Here is the link to the article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/stress-awareness-day-relaxation-benefits_n_1424820.html
**Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, HarperCollins, p103)