A couple of weeks ago a friend challenged me that I needed to learn to rest. Not just physically rest but to take some rest from all the stuff that fills my head, all the things and people I carry around up there and worry about. I don’t take challenge well, in fact I felt annoyed because I didn’t feel like I particularly needed to rest, and I told them so but they remained firm. This particular friend is always full of challenge, you seek wisdom and come away with a fair share of that wisdom but with more questions to work through and process than you had to begin with and that is just the way they intend it to be. Whilst sometimes I hate it I couldn’t be more thankful for that wisdom and challenge.
Ever since that discussion the challenge of rest has been going round my head. How do I rest? Do I rest enough? What should rest look like? How do you rest when you have so many things and people needing your time and care?
My child hates that I make our lives so busy, I am someone who needs people and activity to fill my life, in contrast she is more than happy to be at home, playing and just being in her own space. So about a week after said challenge/discussion/cross words (all on my part!) about learning to rest she asked me what the next few weeks looked like in terms of what we had on and the levels of busyness and as I went through what was a manic month she groaned and pleaded with me to stop filling up every spare minute of time.
As always when the same thing comes at me from different angles I know probably God is trying to say something to me.
I don’t think I am on my own either. I look at the majority of my friends and peers and see exhausted faces looking back at me, so many of the conversations we have are about how tired we all are. And so I have been wondering and reflecting on whether there are lessons I need to learn about how to rest well, and making intentional choices around rest.
Why do I find being busy so much easier than being quiet and still? Why is rest so difficult for me? I have realised I am not very good at resting and I think it for a number of reasons.
- Years of living at break neck speed, in a culture that tells us we always need to be achieving otherwise we are showing weakness and failure have set patterns in my life that aren’t particularly healthy. In some twisted way I think I see a full and busy life as some sort of mark of success and achievement, that actually if I have a day ahead with nothing in it then there is something not quite right. I think we are told that we need to be working hard to achieve something, and in our spare time we need to be running marathons or climbing mountains, as well maintaining lovely homes and having an active and fulfilled social life, and somewhere in the midst of that you need to be parenting children well, and maintaining good relationships. I guess its no big surprise that we end up exhausted.
- A much more personal reason for me is that actually resting and let time and space fill my head and heart is often a reminder of what and who is missing from my life. From the moment John died it has just been easier to fill life to the brim because it made missing him that bit easier but those habits have followed me into the future without him and I am not sure that they are particularly good habits.
- And when it comes to resting in my head, that is a whole different ball game, and probably a lot more complicated. When said friend challenged me to set down the things I normally hold so tightly for just a week, to let God have them, well I realised that I hold so tightly because actually I struggle to trust God has them, that he is in control, that he loves the people I love much more than I do.
I am very good at reflecting but putting those thoughts into practice not so good at. On Wednesday night I was waiting to pick Lucy up from a group and a text arrived from a friend saying that she would be at mine in 20 minutes as we were meeting some other friends to go out for dinner. I responded with a swear word (a bad habit of mine!) saying I thought dinner was at 8pm and not 7.30pm, that I was a good 20 minutes away from home, that Lucy had not been fed or showered and that the babysitter was not turning up until 7.45pm, that she should go ahead without me and I would be there when I could. I ended up rocking up to the restaurant half an hour late, my food having been ordered for me, with a stress headache which meant I hardly said a word all evening.
I would love to say that such incidents are one offs but they aren’t.
I am realising that without proper rest I don’t enjoy life as much, I disengage, I am grumpy and irritable, I don’t listen as well and am just really tired a lot of the time.
I think God has been very clearly saying to me slow down, be intentional in how you spend your time. Only yesterday we were talking at work about living simpler lives, lives with more room for joy and laughter, lives with more room for generosity and that challenge came at me full force all over again.
I need time in my week in good solid blocks to take myself off and be with God, I need time to run and I need time to properly engage with people. I need to learn to say no. I need to learn to be happy with space and quiet time. I need to learn to make wiser choices. I need to learn to enjoy free days.
There are so many things I want to do, dreams I want to pursue, relationships I want to invest in but it has been a revelation to me that actually I am not going to be able to do any of those things well unless I rest, unless I stop. For me creativity is not going to flow out of stress and exhaustion. Being able to care well isn’t going to be within my capacity if I am not even caring for myself well. Good decisions and rational responses are not going to flow from my manic, crazy days.
So here’s to the challenge of rest, of learning to slow down, of not losing the things that really matter and bring us life in the sea of everything else, of precious friends who aren’t scared of standing up to us and to the wisdom of children.