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Rest may seem like an odd topic to add to our list of spiritual disciplines. After all, in our culture, rest is almost a dirty word, bringing up associations of laziness and sloth. Rest seems like an unnecessary waste of time when there is always something more to be done. We pride ourselves on our busyness, wielding it around like a badge of honor. For many of us, our default response to the question “how have you been?” is “busy!”.
But as Jim Smith notes in his book, The Good and Beautiful God, “The number one enemy of Christian spiritual formation today is exhaustion.” Whether we know it or not, our busyness can get in the way of our relationship with God and others. When we rush from one task to the next, we can miss the nudgings of the Spirit or forget to marvel at the work of the Creator. Worse yet, our drive to stay busy can lead us to worship the false god of productivity. We buy into the lie that we are what we produce and our worth is found in what we accomplish.
But this is not what is most true about us. The deepest truth about you is that you are made in the image of God, a God who rested on the seventh day and a God who calls his people to rest. We rest because God rests, and we rest to remember that we are not God. In scripture, God commands his people to set aside one day each week to simply rest. In Egypt, Pharaoh had demanded more bricks and more work, even with fewer resources to expand his empire and demoralize the Israelites. But when God frees the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he requires them to rest on the Sabbath. It is a weekly reminder that of their dependence on God and of God’s faithful provision for them.
Rest is a fundamental necessity for humans. Without proper rest, we are more prone to illness, mistakes, and failures of judgement. My niece is almost a year old and when she is not well rested, that sweet little girl can quickly turn into a whiney, grumpy, tantrum-throwing toddler whose vocabulary is limited to grunts and the word “no!”. While we may not like to compare ourselves to a fussy child, I think we can all admit that when we are worn out and weary, the worst sides of us appear. We forget to be thankful. We snap at those we love most. We stop trusting in God to provide for us.
We need rest, in this busyness-obsessed society more than ever. We need rest because we are humans and it is a necessity. We need rest because we are made in the image of God who rested. We need rest because it renews our bodies and our souls. We need rest so that we can lay to rest the lie that we are what we do. We need rest to allow time to see and hear God. And we need rest so that we can remember that God is God and we are not.
So this month, I encourage you to prioritize rest. Take a nap. Read a book for fun. Go for a long, slow walk. Sit in the sunshine. Step away from your desk for 10 minutes. Go to bed early. Rest in the knowledge that you are loved by God for who you are, not what you do.