No Rest for the Weary: Say it Ain't So

10:46 AMHeather

From the time we were newly in love as teenagers, my husband and I were quite aware of our differences when it comes to taking risks. Chris has always been the spontaneous one, the risk taker...the one leading me along to do crazy things like have a Sunday afternoon picnic in the middle of the circle in Waco.  Complete with a card table and all. 

For those of you who were not fortunate enough to attend Baylor or ever live in Waco--just driving around the circle can be a death defying stunt. Much less running across the traffic to set up a picnic in the middle of the circle.

Chris' mantra has always been, "C'mon! It'll be fun!" While my contribution has always been something more like, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"  

It would thus come as no surprise that my husband thinks nothing of driving for as long as possible with his low fuel light on. Of course, he has a whopping 0.7 mile commute to work.  I, on the other hand, whip into the nearest gas station the minute my fuel light comes on.

Why risk it?

This summer, I'm finally realizing the irony of our approach to driving versus our approach to life. Because God is revealing to me the dangers of how I tend to live on fumes while I would never actually drive on them. How I tend to go, go, go and do, do, do...way past the time when my fuel light comes on and my body says, "slow down!"

It goes back to that performance thing in me that I've mentioned here approximately 7,689 times. 

I'm a do-er. I'm task oriented and yes, in fact, I sometimes add things to my task list that I've already done just so I can mark it off.

Gotta problem with that?

I've long known this angst. I'm not oblivious to my inability to rest and relax. Yes, in fact, some might call me high strung. 

While my first job quickly led to burn out, I must admit I had some kind of thrill and satisfaction with all the tasks I had to get done and all the things that I accomplished in a day. Nothing bolsters my sense of self like seeing all the things I finished.  Self-worth. Self-importance. Self-esteem.

Listen, this is not a good thing. Truth be told, God has been trying to deal with me on this issue for decades. He's used thirty plus years of migraines, a bizarre season of dealing with a neck issue, and then two years with a ruptured disc to tell me loud and proud--"Girl, you gotta slow it down!" My body gives the signals, and my brain says fine. For now. Temporarily.

And then, I'm right back to my old tricks. Gotta perform. Gotta get things done. No day is a good day if nothing gets accomplished. I'm only as valuable as the job I just finished. My accomplishments equate my worth.

The truth is that while I know better, I am still really struggling at doing better. And I know I'm not alone. Because we live in a culture of performance and activity. Over-activity, really. 

We live in a world that says that the busier we are, the more important we are. We live in a community that says your kids are falling behind if they aren't excelling in multiple extracurricular activities by age ten. We live in a world that says being in demand and overworked and over committed is a status symbol.

We even attend churches that dictate an overcrowded calendar of opportunities, subtly inferring that a good Christian is a busy one.

And the thing is, the Bible says the exact opposite. God himself set a strong example in the second chapter of the Bible. 

You see, he made us in his image in chapter one. 

And then, he showed us one clear and bold rhythm to life that we should follow. 

He rested from all his work.
Genesis 2:2

This is not a suggestion. This is not some practice for the lame and lazy and slothful.

This is the pattern that God set from the very beginning, for all of his people. 

He says work hard. 

And rest.

In fact, God goes on to show in Genesis chapter four that when Cain was cursed for his actions, part of that curse was to become a "restless wanderer." Restless. Unable to rest.

Cain was cursed with being restless. Yet, we willingly choose to live this way. Rest-LESS.

We live in a world that screams at us constantly about our need to do, and the noise of the world drowns out the call of our God to regularly take time to pause.

We hit fast forward. And our pause button is broken.

This is not as it should be. 

Our God-ordained rhythm of life should include regular pauses. In fact, WEEKLY ones. Oh, yes. I'm talking about the command to remember the Sabbath day--the day of rest--and keep it holy.

It's not just a pipe dream or an outdated Old Testament suggestion.

And I'm smack dab in the middle of God reminding me how much I stink at resting and how I need to do better. 

My kids are all getting older and more independent. This summer, one or another of them will be gone for more than half the summer. My oldest just got a job and will be working 30-35 hours a week for the rest of the summer. 

While I used to not be able to go to the bathroom without little fingers sliding under the door accompanied by the whines of, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"-- I'm in a season of mothering where yes, I have actually asked my kids if they would like to spend some time together.

I just don't know what to do with myself. Honestly. It feels uncomfortable to have blank spaces in my summer days where I'm not needed to keep my kids out of trouble and occupied like in their younger days.

These forced breaks in my day have been a microphone to the quiet call of my Savior asking me to come. To come and be satisfied and fulfilled by Him alone. Because tasks and busy days don't feed my soul. In fact, they rob me of a deeper joy and peace and they keep me distracted from the weightier things of eternal significance.

God is telling me enough is enough. Learn to pause just as he intended.

Which is so counter-intuitive for me that it's gotten to this point.

(And you can feel free to laugh at me with the forthcoming confession)

I've actually created a note in my phone called, "Soul Fillers." 

Why yes, yes I have. Created a task list for things to do to pause and fill my soul. 

I told you that I'm really bad at resting and slowing down. 

But, I triple dog dare you to immediately respond with the things that you do REGULARLY to slow down and rest. 

Falling asleep watching television doesn't count, by the way.

You see, I readily admit my inability to pause. I'm the first to say that I can feel stressed by a long task list and then restless without one. The grass is always greener.

So, I've taken the drastic step of creating a task list for how to unwind. When I feel that itch to pass (or waste) my free moments on social media or such, I'm going to my list to see how I might fill my time with something that actually causes me to pause and be fed.

Here's my list, for inquiring minds:
--Bible journaling
--reading (Bible or book)
--prayer journaling
--coloring (OH, yes! adult coloring books--they rock)
--hand lettering
--floating in the pool
--dreaming about where God might take me
--time with family and friends

I know my bent. There's a saying that sums me up: 
Those who fail to plan plan to fail."

I just don't naturally know how to slow myself down and Sabbath. So, I'm attempting this new idea of actually setting down some plans on things that I find restful, filling, and soul-feeding. 

I wonder what your list might include? If you had to think about what a Sabbath day might look like for you? Or an evening you mark off for yourself to take a break and rest yourself?

Because in the church or not, our culture is just really bad at resting. In generations past, the lack of electricity and the dark of night served as a natural call to rest and set the work aside. 

Then, the lack of resources at home, such a home computer, meant that the work day was more clearly defined.

But no longer. We are so connected and so technologically advanced that we have no such natural markers. We can literally work 24/7 and be available at any time, day or night. We can't even go to the store or on vacation without having a phone attached to us. 

I personally am coming to see the absolutely truth in the adage that if Satan can't make us bad, then he'll make us busy.

Statistics show that in America, the average work week is now 47 hours. That's the average. I'm sure we all know people who far exceed that (if we aren't one ourselves).

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

A Gallup poll found that Americans get 6.8 hours of sleep a night, on average. This falls 40% lower than the recommended amount of sleep, according to experts. In fact, the Center for Disease Control stated in January 2014 that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.

Jesus told his disciples, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Mark 6:31

Web M.D. connects this lack of adequate sleep to such disorders as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

David declared, "Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." 
Psalm 116:7

Here's the truth of it, as I see it. We all tend to ride the waves of being overworked, overbooked, over scheduled, and overwhelmed without a regular routine of rest. I'm not just talking about a good night's sleep. And, I'm not talking about an annual vacation because that won't cut it. In fact, many of us take our work with us on vacation or we are so worn thin that it takes us until the end of the vacation before we can begin to unwind.

And we are suffering in every aspect of our lives. We are tired, grumpy zombies, living in a fog. We are irritable and short with each other, and we have little to give to anyone, much less to give to the sacred practice of resting in the presence of the Lord.

And he clearly gave us the key to realizing who He is in our lives.

We are to "be STILL and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

In the swirl of activity and going and doing, we are simply incapable of really communing with our Father. We have to quiet our mind and our bodies in order to fully soak in his Godness.

In our busy pace in live, everyone gets our leftovers, including the One who made us.

So, won't you join me in a new way of living? A new pattern for life that brings us refreshment and restores our souls so that we might stay connected to our Lord and be able to live boldly for him?

This pattern has to include a regular rhythm of rest.

However that looks for you, however you can make that happen. It may mean saying no to some things. It may mean being more aware of distractions and more intentional to cut them out. It may mean working hard to give ourselves what God intends for us to have...Sabbath. Rest. Pauses. Connection.

And hey--if it takes creating a "restful task list" to get there, I say more power to you.

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