I’m exhausted today. The beginning of the week is always tough for me. As a family, we tend to live for the weekend and savor each moment spent all of us together. And then inevitably Monday rolls around— and after stealing my husband away to work and leaving me with a weekends full of undone chores I can’t help but feel a slight case of the “after vacation blues” start to set in. Add to this feeling a little one who is maybe teething or maybe just likes to be held all day, and suddenly Monday’s mantra becomes, one step forward and two steps back. At the end of the day I’m usually left gazing in to the horizon as the perfect storm is rolling in— a daunting combination of unfinished tasks and exhaustion. The clouds are grey and heavy with mom guilt ready to rain down. What exactly did you accomplish today? Do you even have a right to be tired?
Here’s the thing— I think if we’re being real with each other we can admit that we’re all a little tired, right? It may feel like weakness to admit this, but how couldn’t we be? We live in a world full of responsibilities and everyone is in an invisible race to do the most in the same amount of time. It’s imperative, we think, to show the world that we are managing our days well— that we are accomplishing the most with the time we are given. But what about rest? What if rest is meant to be more than just a side note— something you squeeze in each night between work and more work? Is it possible to make rest a part of your everyday? I don’t know about you, but I could go for some real rest in my life.
As I thought about how to do this the first thing I realized I would have to do was to prune my priorities. So, I made a list. For me, in this season, my priorities are: faith, people, exercise, and writing. My grandma tells me often, “You can have it all but you can’t have it all right now.” That’s why making a short list of what I wanted to invest my time and heart into right now was important to figure out. For me, the two obvious things that are missing from this list are career and home. After having my third child things shifted a little, it was after all the start of a new season. And I realized I would have to let go of some things to do well at the others. Honestly, right now work is not one of my top priorities. I work part time, and I do my best when I am there. But I have made the decision to leave it there. It’s the same with my home. I still have to keep up with laundry and clean the kitchen. But instead of obsessing over perfection in every corner I have learned to be okay with a more “tidy” approach to house work, instead of daily deep cleaning. For the first time in a long time I made the choice to take a few steps back from these things and focus on people. Specifically my people: the family, friends, and neighbors that God has put in front of me to love and encourage, and to be loved and encouraged by. These people are my priority. Not to say I will never be career focused or that my house will never again be ready to host the queen— but for me this is not that season. To carve time for rest, each season must have its own set of priorities.
So even if I can make time to rest, what about my mind? Will I be able to give myself the freedom to take time for real rest? Or will I fill it with anxiety and guilt as I have done in the past? After making your list of priorities I want you to remind yourself of this, whatever you chose to focus on in this season, allow yourself the freedom to live in that choice. Stop allowing negative self talk to take away your confidence and steal your joy. Being the best version of you is the best example you can give to your children. Wallowing in someone else’s purpose only to feel like you have made the better choice for your kids is not doing them any favors. I am constantly reminding myself of these words found in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” If you choose to stay home, work part time, or work full time, do not allow Satan to burden you with the guilt of what you should be doing or what you could be doing better. I am constantly reminding myself of this, I am free. And it is for freedom that I am free. Stop placing the burden of false expectations on your own shoulders. These weights may be unseen but they are heavy— and they get in the way of rest.
So where do we rest? In her book, Love Lives Here, Maria Goff talks a lot about making her home a place of rest. This resonated with me. I want more than anything for my home to be a place where my family, friends, and neighbors can gather and find rest. However, because I feel so much pressure to work inside my home I’ve become the type of person that loves going out. I’ve always thought getting away was how I relaxed actually. Unfortunately, after being out and about I often still have an unquenched desire for real rest, and sometimes I’m actually more exhausted. It doesn’t help that I believe my kids bedtime is my “free time” to get together with girlfriends and if there’s dancing involved I’m most likely going to be the last one to leave— Especially if the DJ is indulging my love for Shakira. And right now, this time spent with my friends is a priority. It’s a part of the season. I’m not pregnant and baby is now old enough for a few hours away here and there. So yes, I take advantage of this time to be me. The problem is that when I go home I feel bombarded with todos and needs and the last thing that I believe I have time for is rest. And how can I even rest here? There is always something to do. My work in this place is never done. So, how do I change my mindset so that my home can become the place of rest that I wish it was? I think Maria says it perfectly when she says, “We will never find our purpose in exhaustion.” It makes you see it in a whole new light doesn’t it? What if these endless lists and todos are actually a distraction from the enemy? What if we are killing ourselves working late in to the night only to find ourselves sleeping through our purpose? What if a lot of what we think we have to do is not actually necessary at all. What if we are being deceived into a lifestyle of exhaustion when Jesus says he wants to give us rest?
I am writing this as much to me as I am to anybody else. I am not good at rest— ask my friends. I don’t even know how to nap! I just can’t turn off in the middle of the day like that. I knew I was going to need a lot of help with this topic. But I also knew that I could REALLY benefit from being better at resting. So let’s dig deeper in to what the Bible has to say on the topic. When I think of rest in the Bible I think in Old and New Testament terms. In the Old Testament I think of Sabbath, or physical rest. Like what I mentioned in the first section— carving away actual time for rest. In the New Testament I think of Jesus, and the rest that he provides for our souls and in turn the freedom he gives us to make rest a part of our every day. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” To me, this sounds like rest as a state of mind, found by giving our lives to him. I love these words from Jesus spoken to his disciples in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift— peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” There it is again. Peace of mind and heart, something not found in this world. A gift from God.
Ugh. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of this topic. As I’ve been diving in, I feel even more convicted about how I’ve treated rest in my own life. In his book, Soul Rest, Curtis Zachery writes, “When we practice the Sabbath and intentionally move away from the regular rhythms that come from our work and accomplishments, we cease to be bound by “this world” thinking. Our focus shifts to the worship and acknowledgement of the God, who has made this world and held it in his hand.” Wow. It’s beginning to seem like rest is more important than I had thought all along. In Mark 2:27, Jesus again talks about rest. This time he is referring to the Sabbath. “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” God created the Sabbath because we needed it. We need rest, physical and mental, not only to live out God’s purpose in our lives but in order to ensure we remember God is ultimately in charge of it all. In the busyness we find self, and in the rest we find God. All of the distraction and the noise of this world may indeed be Satan’s greatest weapon against man. As I began writing this I wasn’t sure what God was trying to show me. I knew I was tired and that rest sounded like something I needed in order to perform better in my life. Instead I think I’ve realized it’s not about performance at all. Rest is about remembering God.
I have only begun to unpack the idea of rest. But I hope, like me, you have come to a new appreciation of rest and why it is so important to declutter our days and our minds in order to ensure we have time to rest well. Resting, to me, seems to be a lot like reliance. In order to sleep we need to be able to rely on our heart to keep beating, our lungs to keep breathing— our lives to keep living without us being physically awake. Finding rest for our souls sounds like it may be a lot like this. Giving up the control over our circumstances, our time, our success even, and relying on God to provide the life while we simply rest.