Permission for Holy Rest

It’s odd that we so often need to hear permission for what we so desperately need.

Rest is one such hellish need.

Sometimes rest seems far too much like a luxury. It’s afforded to those of us who finish our to-do lists or who have salaries that cover expenses every month. Even when we have very little to do, our brains keep running on overdrive trying to solve some unseen problem that might just offer us a crumb of a sense of productivity.

Rest is hard work.

Some of us who engage through social justice have a particularly difficult time disengaging work that seems not only urgent to us, but dire. Especially when we encounter people who seem not to have the gift of rest, taking such liberty feels unjust or unfair. Yet burnout lives on the heels of this superhuman perspective. We lose our grip on who we are and how we are meant to interact with the world. The work we do, meaningful thought it might be, becomes all-consuming. The terrifying thing is, it often feels so right that it should swallow us whole.

God rested.

Rest is a holy, divine aspect of God. How can we possibly hope to work full tilt 24/7 when even the Creator of the universe shut down for a time? Rest gives us the space and time we need to reflect on our busier moments; it rejuvenates us; and it prepares us to resume our work once more, whole, healthy, and able to keep our work in perspective.

I used to be proud of how over-worked I was — always trying to make ends meet, balancing work and school and family obligations. It wasn’t a hard pride to nurture. After all, we all swim in a culture that applauds workaholics. My exhaustion contributed to depression and anxiety, but it also offered an inverted point of esteem. People appreciated my efforts I gave on behalf of the world. How could my habits be wrong?

I needed people’s misguided admiration to soothe my own insecurity. If I didn’t work as hard as I did, people would think I was lazy or useless or dumb or worthless. As long as I kept moving at a frantic pace, the world seemed to approve of me.

Depression was always a terrifying space knowing that people were judging me as simply being lazy.

Ahhh, hello irrational fear.

Practicing the holy habit of rest doesn’t mean depression suddenly vanishes or that my mental health is whole all of the time. However, I am learning to let go of everything needing to be absolutely perfect. I’ve learned to restrict demands on my time — my time is not unlimited for people, even as a pastor-in-training. This is true as a single person in that just because I do not have a partner or children at home, it does not mean I can suddenly fill the rest of my world with work.

When taking rest becomes like stealing the last cookie in the cookie jar, I need to step back, take a breath, and take the damn cookie. Celebrating rest is not something to be stolen in seconds. God set the example from the first.

Take that walk.
Stay in your pyjama pants all day.
Go see your therapist.
Read a book for pleasure rather than for work or school.

Rest.

No permission is required.

Full, divine, example has already been displayed since the dawn of time.

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