I began learning about rest by not resting. There are countless reasons I could list for why we should rest, why we need to rest, how rest is beneficial, but what is impressed on me most of all lately is that, truly, rest is an act of faith. But I didn’t see that at first.
I assumed that, moving to a country whose mottos include “hakuna matata” and “pole pole” (no worries and slowly), our lives on the field would not be quite so busy. When we arrived I learned rest isn’t something people do here. It’s true that nothing happens quickly. However, there is constantly work to be done. It just takes a long time to do things.
My husband and I arrived on the field without a team and with a 2-year old and an infant. He had to do all the official work for the organization. I had to figure out being a mom and running a household in this country totally on my own, not to mention helping my 2-year old through a traumatic transition and working out how to balance having two kids instead of one.
We had to hit the ground running, in a mad rush to fully furnish our house just so that we could live. That rush set the standard for the rest of the year, my husband working almost every single day to establish a new organization from scratch.
Christmas Day, we had been in the country almost 10 months, and we were packing for our first trip back to the US. I was looking forward to finally having my husband home for a day. Nothing is open on Christmas; he had to have a day off! Then, late in the morning, we received a phone call that a friend’s brother had died. The friend was alone because the rest of the family had gone to their country home for the holiday. They couldn’t come back to the city; the buses were overflowing with passengers. My husband went to sit with our friend. I had a breakdown.
As I fumed that afternoon, I realized that I didn’t begrudge my husband going to visit a grieving friend. It was the past 10 months of restlessness that got to me. Our lifestyle had to change. Late that night, when he got home, I told my husband how this pace of life was ruining me, that when we got back from our trip next year we would have to schedule real days off, or I wasn’t going to survive. It sounded overly dramatic, but I believe it was true. The days without rest were wearing on him, too. We were fully on the same page.
During that first year, I noticed the physical and mental consequences of not resting. I didn’t realize the spiritual ones until I began practicing regular rest.
Rest is, first of all, an act of faith. We are made in God’s image, but we have limitations that he doesn’t. He doesn’t sleep (Psalm 121:4). We would die without sleep.
When Jesus came to earth, he took on flesh. He took on human limitations, though he is divine. The gospels often mention Jesus getting away to spend time in prayer and also to rest. He invited his disciples “to a desolate place (to) rest awhile” (Mark 10:31). He sets an example for how to live with our physical limitations.
My husband needed to rest not only to restore his body, but to trust that God was establishing this organization and that God would continue doing his work on my husband’s days off. I needed to rest in order to actively trust God with my family’s needs. I couldn’t do it all, and I shouldn’t.
Failure or refusal to rest not only wearies our minds and bodies, but spiritually, it sets us up for self-centered idolatry – our attention focused on what we need to do, rather what God is doing. Regular rest sets us up to trust God to keep things going while we are off the clock.
It has been four years since that Christmas. I don’t always succeed in resting well. I am sure there is much for me still to learn and practice. I have learned one thing.
Rest is an act of faith. There is work I need to do. There are things I need to do to take care of my family. But my role in these things is not so urgent that I can’t rest one day a week. God is the one holding it all together, and he can certainly get along without me. I just need to trust him to do that!
What keeps you from rest? What do you need to trust God with so that you can take a day off?