Our lives are packed tight in March and April. We’re up before the sun and home long after it sets, filling each hour in between to the brim. We’ve got some big projects looming ahead, some pressing tasks and hard labor to tackle. And wedged right into the center of all the crazy, spring break beckons us to set down our work and rest.
It’s counterintuitive to take a break when there’s work to be done. Ask my husband how I can’t sit down to watch a little Netflix if there’s dishes to be done, or how I’m compulsive about deep cleaning the house on Friday evening so I can sleep in peace Saturday morning. I want to rest, yes, but I don’t want to rest until everything is done.
The problem, though? We’re never actually finished.
There’s going to be more dishes, more dirt to vacuum up, more projects than we can finish, tasks that continually line up before us, vying for our attention.
Our work here on earth is never truly done.
And yet. Spring break comes nonetheless. Sabbath happens every week, regardless of what we still have to do. The concept of resting from your labor – finished or not – lines the pages of scripture, starting with the example of God himself.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
I’m constantly finding myself measuring the success of the day in terms of productivity. Did I accomplish enough? Did I stay focused on my tasks? Did I work out? Did I cross things off my to-do list? Did I create output? Did I contributing to society in any meaningful way?
And though hard work and diligent labor is good and rewarding and part of our purpose as humans, the constant pressure for productivity becomes heavy. Too heavy for me to carry on my shoulders. I stumble under the weight. I become entrapped by a need to prove myself valuable, by the false belief that I must produce in order feel ok about myself.
Lighten your load a little, Jesus tells us. Set down your heavy burdens and let me lead you in the rhythms of grace.
It’d be easier if we could finish our work first. Then we could rest. But this call from Jesus is not for when the projects are done or the tasks completed. It is for right now, in the present moment. Release your load and walk in grace.
It’s the ultimate sign of trust, really. To be able to set down the urgent and the pressing, the things people are relying on you for, the responsibilities you’ve been shouldering, the needs you are meeting. To be able to pass them off to Jesus, for a minute, an hour, a week, and believe that he is big enough to handle them.
It’s humbling, too. We thought we were all important. That people needed us, that our work was so valuable it couldn’t go undone for a few days. But then we let go of it, we entrust it to Jesus, and we rest. And while we rest we realize we may not be as integral to the workings of the universe as we thought we were.
But with that hard trust and ego-humbling comes a light-heartedness. Notice how buoyant you feel without all the heavy pride and self-importance, without all the pressure to produce weighing you down. Feel how lightly you’ll move through your days, how your feet hardly touch the ground as you move with ease. Notice how there’s grace scattered everywhere you look.
Maybe this is why God crafted the rhythm of our days to include rest. Because we make our yokes heavier than they need to be. Because we need to be reminded again and again that we aren’t what we do. Because we need to keep coming back to the light load of grace that he has in store for us.
Ways to Practice Rest:
- Take a walk. No phone. No mile tracker. Simply walk.
- Turn off your alarm and sleep until your body wakes you. (And don’t shame yourself if it’s well into the morning.)
- Pull out the markers and the coloring books. If there’s anything less productive than coloring in someone else’s artwork it’s this. So do it and remind yourself that you don’t have to produce to be valuable.
- Throw out your mat and do some yoga. Not for the power poses, but for the practice of quieting your body.
- Open Scripture and read – slowly and meditatively. Don’t study, don’t pull out the Greek translation or scour the footnotes.
- Take a long shower (or bath for those lucky enough to have a tub). Yes, I can wash myself in five minutes. The extra fifteen are for enjoying the hot water running down my face.
- Set aside a day, an afternoon, an hour – some portion of your regular week – and make a hard stop from work and chores when you get there. Regardless of what you have undone, this is your time to rest.