Fight for Rest

Rest isn't a rule; it's a chance to reset.

 

The lie you might believe for far too long is that rest is for the weak. Rest is for the lazy. Rest is for those who have time for it. But you? Well, you’re out there making things happen so you cannot possibly take a break. Hustle harder. Move faster.

I spent almost all of my twenties never bothering to rest because of these lies above. I never took days off. I didn’t know how to pump the brakes. I found so much of my identity in what I was doing that when I took time away, I felt like I wasn’t myself or that I was missing out on precious hours where progress could be made. I thought if I stopped, everything would stop. I thought I was holding it all together. The truth was, I was just exhausted. I felt like everything relied on me. I was being a martyr for no apparent reason because I wasn’t serving the world anything but a tired, worn-out version of myself. What I didn’t see back then was that my choice to empty myself for the sake of “good work” wasn’t heroic; it was a recipe for a deadly crash.

While I don’t think the severe depression I experienced in 2014 was spurred on solely by failure to rest, I know that was part of it. It was an “all systems are down” sort of moment for my brain. The “do more, be more, work more, create more” mentality was broken at long last. When I found myself unable to use my brain, I could no longer hide behind my work. I could not continue to use it as an identity and I would have to make the long trip toward a new kind of normal, not knowing when the arrival at that new place would be.

At one point I visited a doctor who, if I am being honest, I didn’t want to meet. I was at the point in the story where I was sick of doctors and sick of questions and I just wanted some answers. I just wanted someone to look at me from across their big desk, open up a drawer, and hand me back my old life. I was tired of being sick.

“So tell me about yourself,” the doctor said to me.

I began to talk, wondering how I might be able to come off as normal as possible. But I remember only telling her the good parts, the successful parts. One after the other, I put accolades and accomplishments on the table as a way to say to her, I’m okay. We don’t have to do this weird doctor-patient thing. I’m doing just fine.

And when I was finished, the woman just looked at me.

“Well, it all makes sense,” she said to me, scribbling something in her notes. “I mean, you could have seen this train crash coming a mile away. At the rate you were going, there was no way you could not crash.”

It was one of those statements that make you think — did other people see the train crash coming? Did I see the crash coming? How did I not see what this doctor sees and if I had seen it, couldn’t I have prevented it?

These are questions I’ll never have the answers to, but I do know just this: I was bound to crash at some point. If the standard of success and worth came from pleasing other people, I was bound to crash. If the only thing that could fill me was a checklist of things that made me look impressive, then, yes, there was bound to be a crash. And though I wish I could have seen the warning signs, the crash was necessary to wake me up.

When the crash came, I was forced to rest. To put it bluntly, I was humbled into rest, since I could no longer be an independent go-getter. I had to look at myself and ask some tough questions. With the questions came some unavoidable realities to face.

I naively thought I was holding everything together. I thought if I took a break, things would crumble. Turns out, I am not holding the world together. That is not my job. It is not my job to control the people I love. It is not my job to always be successful. It is not my job to never fail or hit a wall or need to start again.

As long as I think I’m holding the universe together by working seven days a week and never taking breaks, I’m not trusting God. I am finding subtle ways to send out the message, “I cannot rest. I cannot take a break. I cannot stop because I’m afraid if I stop, everything will cease.”

If that is the reality today, you need what I needed back then — a bigger God. A God who can handle my taking breaks. A God who gave me rest as a gift, not as a one-way ticket to the sidelines. I needed to re-meet the God of the Sabbath, and it was a painful but necessary road to travel to get there.

If I’m not careful, I know I could go right back to that place where I worship the hustle and the “do, do, do” more than my Creator. I know I still have it in me.

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One of the first things Jesus does for people is extend an invitation. He puts it very plainly to the people following Him:

Are you tired? Are you burned-out? Are you absolutely done? Come to Me, and I will give you rest. I can teach you how to live light and free. — [Matthew 11:28-30]

He isn’t mad over the exhaustion. He knows exactly where we are on the map and just how tired we feel. He sympathizes and invites us into something better. I can promise you it’s something better than a to-do list that never ends and a story line that relies on our having to hold it all together.

It’s a beautiful invitation, and a standing one, but it requires that we come forward. Rest isn’t something we stumble on. It does not happen by accident. Rest is something we have to enter into and it’s a pure gift. We cannot try to “perfect” it to please God. He is already pleased, and nothing we do or don’t do can change that reality.

But regardless of the invitation, we have to pick the pause. We have to fight for rest. We have to be really intentional with when and where and how and how long. Otherwise we’ll live in this cycle of:

Oh, things will slow down at the end of the year.
Things are about to get quiet.
Well, summer was busier than I expected, but I’m planning to take a break soon.

The excuses will keep coming forward if we allow their admission.

Anne Lamott says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”1 The keyword is unplug. To make space. To say no to the excuses. To clear out the noise. To get into the silence, even if that only means we put our phones on airplane mode.

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When we talk about rest, it’s easy to get a picture in my brain of taking a catnap or finding time to do a cucumber melon face mask. Rest is often thought of as snuggling on the couch for a Netflix binge or going away on a vacation. But are we really recharging? Do we ever take a break from the noise that is at our fingertips and in our earbuds 24/7?

By the time night fell in that campground, I was hooked. I was absolutely enamored with the quiet, with the forgetting to check my phone, with the freedom to just be without any noise telling me who or how to be.

I was reading books by the fire. I was pouring words into my journal. I was laughing and crying and becoming inspired again. Peace met me there in the desert.

“I don’t want to neglect seasons that grow me down into roots,” I wrote. “I would like to always be building or always be laughing but Ecclesiastes 3 tells me there must also be the tearing down. There must also be weeping.”

There is a time to speak, I read in that passage, and a time to be silent. As I traced those words, I stopped: be silent.

The Hebrew word for silent is chashah. It means “to be still.”

Being still is the first step to planting roots deep down into God.

Solomon goes on to say in Ecclesiastes that we will never control the timing. The purpose of us being here — leading and loving and sharing — is not so we can become good at micromanaging people and dealing with noise. We could easily believe that lie and body-slam every hour into the calendar, but that is not the point. We are here to take on more of the person of Jesus, not more of the noise that sings to us about our fragile sense of self-worth.

As the bacon sizzled in the frying pan placed above a propane tank, I realized the world had not crumbled because I’d chosen to step away. The more glorious part? If the world did indeed crumble, then I would be none the wiser out here in the desert. You think you’re going to miss out on everything when you turn off the phone, but you don’t end up missing out at all — you gain more than you can imagine.

For the first time in such a long time, I could be engaged with my thoughts.

They weren’t frantic. They weren’t berating me to get back to work so I could prove my worth. I breathed in and knew, I’m okay. God is here.

And the most beautiful part? Entering into this peace came through just the simple decision to turn off my phone and get away for a few days. It wasn’t extravagant. If it had been extravagant — a process that took a lot of time to get into — I would have surely made all the excuses to not rest. When Jesus talked about rest — setting aside a sacred day in the week for rest — He was very clear in telling people there was no need to get all legalistic about it. There is no right or wrong. That’s not the point of taking a break.

Rest isn’t a rule; it’s a chance to reset. A chance to hear your thoughts again and know you’re okay. A chance to come back to yourself and come back to your roots. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes out of your day to grab a latte or getting out in nature for a hike. Nature moves to a different rhythm and clock than we do — sometimes it’s nice to tune in to nature’s schedule. It could be reading a book instead of scrolling during the spare fifteen minutes you have. Rest can come from gathering ingredients and making a meal with your own two hands or picking one day a week to unplug from the rest of the world and return to yourself and the things you love — taking a nice nap, running a warm bath, having dinner with friends, enjoying a slow morning with nothing specific to do. Rest can be anything you do that omits the noise and steers you back to that still, small voice inside you.

If we can dull the roar around us, we can hear what a real Voice sounds like. The Voice that makes our fears cease. The Voice that keeps us rooted and makes us braver than we can be on our own.

That Voice will tell you who you are, and it will always sound like love. The noise of this world will never be able to do the same or show you the multitudes of purpose you possess within you. Twitter won’t show you that. Instagram won’t reveal it. Amazon won’t deliver it. An empty inbox won’t prove it.

When you take time to rest, you say yes to going back to basics — yes to who you were before the race to be “more” began.

  1. Anne Lamott, “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing,” TED2017 (April 2017), www.ted.com/talks/anne_lamott_12_truths_i_learned_from_life_and_writing/transcript.

Excerpted with permission from Fighting Forward by Hannah Brencher, copyright Hannah Brencher.

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Your Turn

Rest. It’s hard for some of us go-getter types. Putting down work is like putting down mattering in the universe. Except that it’s not because the Lord created us as human beings, not human doings. So here’s the challenge: rest. Come share with us how you feel about that! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Hannah Brencher

Hannah Brencher is an author, blogger, TED speaker, and entrepreneur. She founded The World Needs More Love Letters, a global community dedicated to sending letter bundles to those who need encouragement. Named as one of the White House’s “Women Working to Do Good” and a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service, Hannah has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Oprah, Glamour, USATODAY.com, The Chicago Tribune, and more.

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