The Discipline of Rest

I got my efficiency from my mother. Laura: a former nurse, mother of nine, force to be reckoned with. When I was very young, I thought she was a superhero; when I entered adulthood, I was proven right. This woman can homeschool her young ones, drive multiple carpools, answer all of our medical questions, text her children Scripture verses for their day, prays like a warrior, and still has diner on the table at six sharp. She can multi-task like nobody’s business, and growing up in her influence, I garnered the same characteristics. Her efficiency has set me apart in every job I’ve held, created more time to go on adventures with my man, and has saved us time and money in the long run. And I am so grateful.

Last week, I got sick. I wasn’t sick-in-bed, bring-me-a-meal sick, just the regular ‘ol kind of sick that everyone gets around February 24th. As the days crept on, I could feel it settling in. No matter what I did to ward it off, to ignore it, to keep my energy level high and my tone upbeat, I was on a slow decline. And that meant one thing: rest.

I am good at being efficient. I am not good at resting.

As the days progressed and my energy wained, I knew I would soon face the necessity of resting. But it scared me, it unsettled me, because I do not really know how to rest. The idea of sitting still, of being quiet and alone, makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I suppose it always has, because I always know there are things that could be done. Rest is absolutely not efficient; it does not maximize my time, accomplishments, or to-do list items. Rest is unsettling because it puts me in a position where I am not the hero, not the achiever, not in the driver’s seat. Rest insists that I be still for a while, sit quietly for some time, and let the other necessities of my day go by un-done.

I took one sick day last week, and it was almost my undoing. As I laid in bed, Kleenex on my night stand and hot tea in hand, I couldn’t help but twitch my foot nervously. There was much to do, and everything in my efficiency-oriented self fought against my physical need to rest. But as I laid there, fighting my own need to rest, I realized something: If I don’t embrace rest, I will be unfit for the Kingdom of God.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me: I don’t mean to imply that there is anything we can do on our own to make us fit for God’s Kingdom. But as believers, as citizens of the heavenly city, our very real future is in a land that God has called “rest.” Our future horizon that we press ever-onward towards is a place of rest, a place where we will finally be at peace, will finally be able to sit in the quiet. Our hearts will be at rest because Christ has never-ending, never-limited rule in the land. The Gospel holds out to all followers of Christ a future of rest. And if I balk at the invitation to rest when I am sick here, on this side of the kingdom, there is something that I have failed to embrace in the Gospel.

I have prided myself in my ability to keep going, to avoid slowing down, even when I’m sick. I have taken pride in my ability to do it all, to impress those around me, to impress myself, with how much I can accomplish in 24-hours. I eagerly add “just one more item” to my never ending to-do list in an effort to feel accomplished, and, somehow, to feel worthy of praise.

I have always viewed rest as a privilege; but in reality, it is a discipline.

The end of the Christian life is life with Christ in perfect rest. So I need to practice, painfully and intentionally, the discipline of rest. I need to embrace the call of the Gospel to be at peace with unfinished to-do lists, and to be still in the presence of God. I need to build time into my day for rest, time to relieve my mind, to slow my pace. And in doing so, build into my life a liturgy of rest that serves as a visible reminder of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Will you join me? Will you rest here a while with me? Because we’re all in this together, and, one day, we will all be at rest together.


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