I don’t know about you but my calendar can’t take one more thing. Between my 18 credit class schedule, my two jobs, and social life, rest is something I long for but don’t prioritize.
I had been wanting to sabbath my senior year of high school but never made the time because of my busy schedule. Then COVID hit, and it felt like I was experiencing a (very much needed) surplus of rest. But of course, life got busy again and rest went on the backburner. So, over the summer I had the chance to implement the rhythm of rest that Jesus lived by in the New Testament. The rhythm of rest that goes all the way back to Genesis.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. -Genesis 2:1-3
Let this sink in: God rested. And if an infinite being rests, then how much more should we follow suit as finite beings?
Coming out of a year of canceled plans, limited travel, and socialization, no in-person school, etc., it is easy to want to say yes to every invitation and opportunity. School has only been in session for a few weeks, and I find myself “making up for lost time” by cramming my schedule full of coffee dates, beach days, and “study” dates (where we just end up talking with our laptops open…). While it is so sweet to be together again, it is so important to remember that we are not infinite. We have limits.
This need for rest catches up to us, whether we like it or not. Our bodies give us warning signs when we need it, like exhaustion (mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally), which results in needing days or weeks to recover.
What if there was a way for us to create more space between the walls that we hit when we neglect rest? Jesus shows us the way.
Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. -Matthew 11:28-30
This invitation to rest is not intended to be legalistic--instead, it is actually freeing.
Jesus is inviting us to have a wider vision of what it means to rest. Sabbath is something we are no longer obligated to follow, but it holds rich wisdom that is counter-cultural.
We were meant for Eden, a restful sanctuary of beauty, and we live in a world with only glimpses of that perfect reality of rest.
Sabbath was created to be a day of remembrance of how God had brought them (the Jews) out of Egypt as slaves. The heart behind the original commandment was to remember how God had been faithful in the past, and an exercise of trust that you can stop working for 24 hours and you will still have provisions. It’s easy to read the command to sabbath and think, how can this be hard, I don’t want to work, I’d like a break? But work is more than just our jobs or our education. It is work to put out an image that we are doing okay, when maybe we aren’t. Rest gives us the margin to express and process our pain.
Putting work (whatever that is for you, a job or school) before our families, relationships, and faith forms us into people of stress. Life soon feels like a game of catch-up, where every moment has to be used for productivity or it is wasted. Jesus shows us that working overtime is not the rhythm that God designed us for. When we are heavy with worries and are exhausted from laboring, we are invited to move closer to Jesus.
Why is rest so important?
This kind of rest is sitting in God’s presence and finding peace by relinquishing all of the anxieties and worries that cloud our minds from seeing God.
Engaging in this kind of rest is often the last thing I want to do. It is counter-intuitive that it takes energy to rest, but it is true. When I am exhausted from school or work, it is easy for me to grab my phone and scroll on Instagram for half an hour, or binge-watch a TV show.
While there is a time and place for small doses of this kind of rest, it is not going to satisfy our souls in the long run. Have you ever gone on social media for a few hours and left rejuvenated, and inspired? Most of the time I don’t.
I write this with sincerity: it is okay to not want to rest with God right now. If prayer feels like rehashing your stresses, and not a place of peace, that is okay. Prayer for that season of life often looks more meditative. Closing my eyes and just being. Our souls need that too.
It’s okay if all you can do today is scroll to take your mind off things, but there is more for you when you are ready.
Putting rest on your calendar
I have found it difficult to put rest on my calendar because there is not much accountability to it. My work goes on my calendar, my assignments that are due, and my classes to attend are all there-- not my rest. That being said, I encourage you to join me as we find a few things that we can do to find rest in this season! Here is my own personal list of some fun and restful things to do!
- Watercolor on Metzger lawn (alone or with pals!)
- Spend 20 minutes in the prayer chapel to decompress after class. Sometimes we think prayer has to be long to be meaningful, but even a few minutes can go a long way!
- Fellowship. Seek and engage with company that feels restful, people you don’t have to show up for!
- On your walk to class, take out your earbuds, put away your phone and try to notice as many things around you as you can.
- Read scripture (not bible reading for class!) at Talbot garden.
- Walk to Ding-Tea with friends! (across from the BCC)
My sincere hope for you all is that you can find rest in this next season here at Biola. As I write this I have a to-do list a mile high, and I still chose to spend time with a friend this evening for a break! Rest does not have to be a reward, it can be a daily delight. I hope it is something you all can delight in as often as you can.