Author: Rocky Anthony, MTR Counselor
We often talk about our shared struggle to find the ever-elusive balance of work and rest. We may try many different ways to carve out time for rest, even through our attempts often fall short. In my many conversations through the years, no one has ever said to me, “Rocky, I’m content with the way my workload and deluge of daily worries erode my ability to rest.” No one says that! Rest is something we want, something we know we need, but so often, the noise within and around us comes like a thief to steal away the very treasure we seek.
When we talk about rest, we need to think of it holistically—our bodies, minds and souls. Our souls include our emotions. I believe this is what Jesus had in mind when he offered us these beautiful words, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus wants to give rest to our weary, burdened bodies, our anxious and fearful emotions, our overloaded, fractured minds, and our tired, numb souls. Jesus says, “Come to me with your whole being and find rest”. It seems like such a simple invitation. Why is it so easy to mess that up and miss the restorative promise it affords?
I believe the enemy likes to whisper lies to us in our exhaustion to make us feel inadequate and discouraged. Like we aren’t doing enough, being enough or measuring up. As educators, do you ever really feel like you have done enough for your students, or that you have ever really finished all your work?
These lies create a restless existence. Often, hidden behind our frenetic paces are these and other old lies, driving us to exhaustion, secretly embezzling the rest we desperately long for, and need.
Why do these lies matter? They matter, because if we postpone rest, renewal and recreation until our minds are cleared from everything on our to-do list, we will be waiting a long, long time. Rest, by very definition, is an acknowledgment of our own human limitations. It is, in fact, the active release of control and the humility to submit to God’s redemptive pattern renewal.
I have always been intrigued by these words in Psalm 23:2-3a.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.”
The particular phrase that stirs me is, He makes me lie down in green pastures…
It would seem that any thoughtful, hungry, tired, fearful sheep, in the presence of the Good Shepherd, would naturally, instinctively, lie down in the green pastures to rest. Not so. The Good Shepherd makes them lie down. This speaks again to our need to actively let go of control and allow God to weave his will within us. Sometimes, the Good Shepherd will literally, make you lie down to rest. In other moments he provides opportunities for rest, (retreats or times of renewal). Learning how to enter into these moments in a way that is restful for you is an important part of your own spiritual formation.
Jesus invites us to come to him, weary and burdened for rest, but Jesus does even more. The Good Shepherd also leads us to green pastures and still waters to restore our souls. This is a source of deep encouragement as we struggle with the ever-elusive balance of work and rest. It is the promise and assurance that we are not alone in our struggle. Jesus invites us to come to him for rest and Jesus leads us to a place where our souls can be refreshed.
May we continue to grow in our practice of the “joy-filled” gift of rest, relying on his grace to sustain and fuel our work together. We do this, following the example and prompting of our loving Shepherd. So, enjoy your next long “guilt-free” nap!