Things We Care About: Rest

This morning I hit the wall. Or the wall hit me, I’m not really sure. All I know is that I went upstairs to get dressed for the day and woke up two hours later.

Last week was intense on a number of levels. I was juggling the usual work/family dynamics, but with a couple of new opportunities thrown in. I consistently forget how even the good stuff can be draining if I don’t pay attention and keep some sort of limit on how long I use adrenaline as a life strategy. Last week was one of those unfortunate instances where I forgot I was running on adrenaline, and I became convinced that this was just my new normal: stretched too thin, overwhelmed, counting the hours until bedtime. By the time Saturday rolled around I was tense and grim, blurting things I didn’t mean and feeling hopeless about the past, present AND the future.

You’d think I’d realize something was off, right? That I’d recognize that my life hadn’t ACTUALLY dissolved over the past nine days, and that perhaps my mood was not, um, based on circumstances? But when I’m tired, I don’t catch on.

The Bible is clear that God built us for rest. Weekly rest. It’s in the Ten Commandments. But I’ve read entire books on “keeping the sabbath,” from Christian, Jewish, and even mainstream/pop-culture perspectives, and they leave me in despair. The things that are supposed to bring rest in those books–having all your friends and relatives over for a meal that lasts 3-4 hours, for example, or spending a long afternoon playing Monopoly with your kids (read: intensive people things)–are fabulous ways to spend time. But for some of us they’re the opposite of restful. Hint: It doesn’t count as sabbath if it takes you two full days to recover.

Steve and I have devised our own responses to God’s command to rest. For Steve, it usually means yard work, or a house project, and then a couple hours in front of a screen watching Band of Brothers…alone. For me, it’s 3-4 hours (okay, 4-5 is best) of free time in our house, with no one else there and nothing I have to do. A friend of mine said it best when she said, “Sometimes I just need to sit and stare at the wall.” Exactly.

We don’t always get these times. But life is better, and more functional, when we do. And rest adds the possibility of enjoying life, which when I’m tired just feels like a pipe dream.

I’m convinced that our best rest is highly individual. It’s one of those things we have to discover for ourselves, right along with our tolerance for risk and whether or not we like sushi.

Today, after my unexpected nap and some high-powered wall staring, I feel like a different person. As if something changed on a molecular level, and my interactions with the world are fresh and new. It turns out that the way to restore hope isn’t always drumming up more faith, or praying harder, or faking positivity. Sometimes it’s taking a nap.

God loves to work through the things we don’t expect: the things we’re tempted to hide (daytime sleep instead of intense productivity), or avoid (confessing when we do something wrong). There aren’t many aspects of God’s Kingdom I can point to and say Doing X works, pretty much every time, but rest is one of those things.

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