Learning Rhythms of Rest

This post is a follow-up from Women’s Retreat, where we talked about how to deal with the unrest in our souls.

Scripture teaches us that we are to have(C) Luke Cheeser periods of work and rest, from the beginning when God rests after creation (Genesis 2:1-3), throughout the Old Testament as the Israelites were commanded to practice Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), and demonstrated by Jesus as he and his disciples retreated to rest (Mark 6:30-32).

How can we learn to incorporate rest into our overly-stuffed modern lives?

We’ll look at three questions:

  • What are your barriers to rest?  
  • How can you let go of the need to do it all?
  • What does it look like for you to rest well?

What are your barriers to rest?

As I’ve lived here for a few years, I’ve noticed an immense amount of pressure for The Bay Area Woman. It seems that She is expected to start her day early at her brilliant new start-up, while still managing to pick up her stylish kids from school, kids who are excelling at Japanese and toy engineering, not to mention soccer, which she coaches.

Her lovely little family vacations in Costa Rica, sleeping in tree houses. In her spare time, she helps her friend with a new restaurant in Temescal Alley, reads up on racial reconciliation, brews her own kombucha, hand throws pottery, tends to the chickens in the backyard, and trains for triathlons when she gets bored.

Tired yet?

I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot of pressure to do it all, and to somehow make it look easy and low-stress. But no one can pull that life off, or maybe one woman can, but she has a small army of personal assistants, or is a cyborg.

In some ways, it has become fashionable to be exhausted, perhaps because the exhaustion proves that our lives are meaningful, that we are achieving the “SuperWoman” status, whether that be SuperMom or SuperExecutive or Super(fill in the blank). And we fear that we are nothing if we are not super.

I’ve seen that one of my main barriers to rest is the idea that if I stop moving, stop contributing, then I am worthless. I like to act as if I am somehow exempt from the need to rest, that I am the Redeemer, that the world may indeed fall apart should I remove myself from its workings.

But it turns out that this is another form of working my way into God’s approval, rather than resting in the work of Christ on my behalf, and all my frantic scrambling diminishes him rather than honoring him. And so, I’m learning (slowly it seems), that I am not God and that I am indeed human after all.

Why do you not let yourself rest?

  • Are you avoiding pain, avoiding what comes when you are quiet and let yourself be instead of do?
  • Are you trying to work your way into significance or meaning or purpose?
  • Are you trying to play God? Do you believe you are too important?
  • Are you trying to work feverishly to do penance or appease your guilt?
  • Are you letting human opinion and cultural pressure dictate who you should be
  • Are you letting comparison drive you by trying to “win” at everything?
  • Are you letting yourself substitute escapism or entertainment for rest?

Take some time to think about what are your barriers to rest, and commit to discussing this with someone.

How can you let go of the need to do it all? 

In her book Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist talks about making a list of things she doesn’t do as a way to release her from the pressure of being Superwoman. She doesn’t garden or bake, even though everything in her suburban culture tells her she needs to do both of those things.

I love this concept, because it helps us stop our favorite little Game O’ Comparison we love to play as women. This also frees us to celebrate the gifts of others rather than be threatened by them.

So, I don’t do my own research for technological purchases or do my own taxes, even though I feel a little dumb asking for help, because a grown-up Bay Area Woman should be able to do those things.

But I do need help, and I’m not good at everything, and it brings me much less stress to let other people help me with these tasks. This is one of the most beautiful aspects about the family of God, letting ourselves be helped. So thank you, technological people, among everyone else who helps me. And if you need, I will arrange your flowers or play on the playground with your kids or cry with you, because those things bring me life.

What do you not do? What do you need to quit? How can you celebrate the gifts of others and ask for help?

What does it look like for you to rest well?

Each of us have different ways of resting that bring us refreshment. Our seasons of life often dictate what kind of rest is possible for us, and this morphs as our seasons change. Often, we don’t even know what is restful for us, don’t even know the difference between escape and true rest.

Take some time to write down five times you felt rested.

What are the themes for those answers?

What are the rhythms of rest that put you into the best space to love God, love people, and to do what God has called you to do for this season?

Talk to one person about the answers to these questions. 

I’m praying for us, that we will learn to rest well, but most of all, that we will hope in God, not in our ability to develop a perfectly balanced self-care plan. I’m praying that we would persevere in the difficult seasons where rest is more difficult, and that we would look to Jesus as our only hope of lasting rest.

Recommended reading: Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton

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