I have found myself needing rest and enjoying rest in new ways. My body, mind and spirit are occasionally beyond tired—really weary. Sometimes I thankfully have moments, usually when I am in conversation with lay people or other Nampa community members, when I have a flurry of creativity and energy. But when I approach Thursday evenings, a rough draft of my sermon finished and most of the workweek behind me, I look forward to my days of deep rest and disengagement from my church to-do list. That list is replaced by things like read, do laundry, go on walks, and more reading. I used to see rest solely as a means to an end. I reasoned that I would be hardly any good to anyone (workplace, family, and friends) if I was worn down and constantly running ragged. Rest was part of the large umbrella category of self-care, meant to prevent burn-out. Instead of burn-out, my generation of pastors would have long lasting careers in public ministry. When I started as a pastor in rural Iowa, I was stunned to realize how tired I was on Sunday afternoons. A mentor fortunately explained that this was completely normal for some pastors. He took a nap every Sunday afternoon and called it rebooting. I did this for a long time. Then I built new emotional and social muscles and Sunday mornings did not tire me out in the same way, not unless it was an especially big day. I still want to rest on Sunday afternoons, but now I also want rest on my day off, really rest, not just fill it up with different activities. Life has changed in so many ways with the pandemic. For me, there is a tiredness that is new. I have a little more stamina than I did when we began, but my mind, body and spirit still feel the weight of all the things. The first time someone used the phrase decision fatigue, I knew he was naming my reality. In addition, I have information fatigue, production fatigue, learning fatigue, Zoom fatigue, and empathy fatigue.
Now, before the tvprays.org readers send me notes asking me to please heed my own advice and rest, I will assure you that I have been resting. I have found pleasure and rest lying on my really long sofa and reading for hours, drowsing off, reading again. On my days off, I try to pair this activity with long walks, hydration, and meals that include vegetables. What I know now, in a way I do not know if ever fully grasped before, is that there is intrinsic value in rest. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done in the world and rest is one thing that equips me for my corner of that work. But even without the productivity, there would be value in the rest. If I truly believe that I am a beloved child of God, then I need to believe that God wants me to rest and that God’s loving gaze is on me while I am resting. That may be old news to a lot of people, but not to me. I am not even nurturing a relationship with another human being in these moments, which would be beautiful. But I am nurturing my relationship with God. There are feelings of vulnerability and exposure. My prayer is something like, “Here I am God. Not producing. Not being excellent. Maybe not even learning anything useful. Am I really enough in this particular moment?” And the answer is always “Yes. Keep resting.” I am not finished with my discoveries in resting. I assume in six months, in ten years, in twenty years, my body, mind, and spirit might rest differently but I hope to carry with me the joy and peace I have in rest, and mostly the beloved emotion I am starting to feel, even when I am doing nothing that fits our definitions of productive.
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Excellent observations on rest. Your journey in Iowa was similar to mine in Pennsylvania those first few years. A Sunday nap was a necessity. Sabbath rest is what you describe to my way of thinking. A good thing, given by God.
Learning how to rest while you are still young is a marvelous thing – before retirement slaps a person in the face with its different constraints about productivity and more available time. It took me several years to stop feeling guilty about just sitting on the couch in the sun on a winter afternoon and reading a novel (vs a more productive non-fiction book).
This is SO good. What a gift to yourself that you’ve gained these insights now. As a “senior”, I needed the reminder that God is definitely in my rest, not just my doings.
Somehow resting got a bad name with some brands of Christianity. Eastern religions are way ahead of us. Thank you for validating it (and the great picture!).