Look at us. We did it.
Despite misgivings and any number of wonderings, we have entered into the second half of 2021. You might be scouring through school supply lists or job listings or lists of great things to still do on vacations (or things to do during lockdown, because the days continue to remind us that these are still delicate days unlike any we’ve ever lived before).
Mixed in with all of the “things to do” for me has been the deliberate stepping-away-from-work-and-all-that’s-pressing-in time to watch sunsets. I mean, really watch them as the world silently bows in honor and gratitude to its Creator.
I’ve missed sunsets.
That deliberate stepping away has come as I have learned something about myself by asking the question: Where do I feel most at rest? What do I need in my life to refuel and recharge? And at the end of the day, how do I want to be remembered?
I wrote that question eight years ago as a bit of self-discovery to better understand how I was uniquely designed by God. I’ve since then shared it and the other questions with others. I thought it might be nice to consider the questions again. After eight years, some of the answers have remained the same, some have evolved, and some have wrestled with my heart a bit.
This is one of the wrestlers.
I can easily write down a list of places and people where I feel I can “take a breath,” if you will. I’ve honestly been pretty proud of that list, as it includes foreign lands and unlikely scenarios (like road trips and true crime TV series). But in responding to the question this time, I realized that finding rest and actively engaging in rest are two different things (at least to me). While I am great at discovering and celebrating rest when it shows up in moments, I am very guilty of not engaging in and cultivating the divine (and God-instructed) work of rest.
That seems an oxymoron, doesn’t it?
The “work of rest.”
The story goes in scripture that, after Jesus had sent His disciples out to care for communities (with nary a suitcase nor hotel reservation to make the journey comfortable), they returned eager to tell Him all about the great things that had happened. Instead of keeping up the hype or mapping out the next big adventure, Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.” (Mark 6:31) And even when the word got out that Jesus and the crew were back in town and the crowds destroyed the concept of “deserted place,” it was Jesus who did the work of caring for the throngs of people so His disciples could do what He said—rest. He didn’t ask for help, He didn’t allow them to join in. He knew that rest was as essential as service—so much so that God Himself actively participated it in it as part of His creative process AND wrote it as a commandment to His people.
I felt the Lord whisper two things to me (no big audible voice stuff—just the “in your gut” nudge):
“What if I wanted you to step away from it all right now? What if the best thing you could do would be to be obedient to the call of rest as you live your life fully? Rest is as essential to that life as moving, breathing, offering up your hands in service, walking the road with others…”
and then this:
“Why are you afraid I will not keep walking fully with you in the days ahead?”
Perhaps you are a bit like me—maybe the twinges of shame creep in at the thought of slowing down, stepping away, taking a breath, giving space for rest, believing that letting go of the good work will not result in that work being dismantled, destroyed, or diminished—or forgotten entirely.
As an author, I’m encouraged to keep proclaiming my message so that it catches your attention (and the attention of publishers, conference organizers, podcast producers, and other notables who might then find our voice worthy of even more attention). As a minister, it’s tempting to push rest to the side as long as there are needs yet unmet, as if rest is either our one-day-down-the-road compensation—or an outright crime.
Rest is neither. It’s a place so worthy that it’s woven seamlessly into God’s design for our days. It gives permission to place those days squarely in the Lord’s hands for safe-keeping, no matter where the days find us. Psalm 127:2 says, “It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know He enjoys giving rest to those he loves?”
Take a moment. Take a breath. And think about this: God delights in giving us rest.
I’m contemplating all that’s harvested in our lives and the lives of others when we live our lives fully—rest included—as I consider all of the definitions of the word “gather this year. Yes, harvest is one of those definitions.
But for now, I’ll simply write this for both of us to embrace:
We harvest strength in rest.
We harvest hope in rest.
We harvest courage in rest.
We harvest wisdom in rest.
We harvest remembrance in rest.
We harvest grace in rest.
Let’s be about the work of rest, love. Let’s receive His gift. I’ll meet you at a sunset.