There is this continued longing for rest. A moment by moment desire some days as I wrestle the toddler into a clean diaper or try to be diligent and intentional with the words and tone I speak to my daughter with. The physical discomforts of being 37 weeks pregnant. The repetitive tasks. The work. There is much joy in it, but it can be exhausting.
And when I finally get time to rest, how well do I receive the gift? All too often I look at rest as something I’ve earned and not a gift. God knew the need for rest, even in the commandments. There is a day set aside for rest. In the times when I have free time during the week, how do I handle it? Sometimes I still have to work on things that just haven’t gotten done around the littles: meal plans or monthly budgets, baby nesting, homeschooling prep. But there are still moments of time when I know I need to rest. I am weary. I need to recharge. What do I turn to? Who do I turn to?
I used to think rest meant relaxing. Sitting and not engaging in any work. I’d binge-watch a favorite tv show. Or unintentionally get sucked into hours of social media and internet browsing. While the mind is not “working”, it sure is ingesting a lot. I did not think it was affecting my life, but what goes in through the eyes and mind begins to settle in the heart. It outpours from the mouth and hands. This is the danger. Compromise begins here. And I was seeing my motivation lacking. My self discipline, waning. It was disguised as harmless entertainment but it was the opposite of rest.
When I am weary, I often frantically search for other things to fill me up. Chocolate hidden in the cabinet (Escape). Social media, tv shows, or internet browsing (Distraction). In themselves, these aren’t bad things. But what is my motivation in seeking these things? If I seek distraction, I writhe in irritation when brought back to the present. If I seek momentary pleasure, it will not last me. My cup will be empty as soon as the moment is over.
I come away not only restless but unfulfilled. Rest should be a filling up! A calming of the body, a calming of the mind and heart. This year I’ve been looking into what it means to “keep a quiet heart” (to quote Elisabeth Elliot). A heart that is precious to God (1 Peter 3:4). A heart that is unfrazzled, unhurried, joyful, hopeful, and content. When my heart is discontent, it is not quiet nor rested. Far from it.
One thing that has helped is to embrace the empty spaces during the day. The moments when the kids are engaged and I don’t have to do anything. It took deleting certain social media apps from my phone to keep me from distracting myself in these moments. I am trying to let the white spaces in my day be. I linger longer at watching my kids. I have space to pray. I pick up a book, and am actually reading it to the end, little by little.
The other more important habit I’m developing is to intentionally set aside the best, most reliable “quiet time” of my days to read the Word. I have a Bible study to engage in, and people to keep me accountable. And even on the days when I feel like my body just wants to lie down or my mind just wants to wander away, I keep that time. Some days it feels like work. Some days it is reviving. But – I am learning – it is always the rest that I need. It is rest to study His Word! It is rest to be in His midst.
Finding rest is also about finding humility in Christ, and wearing it daily. Nothing – and no one – will ever satisfy our hearts except for Christ. He is the only one who will provide rest.
I love how Hannah Anderson puts it in her book, Humble Roots:
“Pride convinces us that we are stronger and more capable than we actually are. Pride convinces us that we must do and be more than we are able. And when we try, we find ourselves feeling ‘thin, sort of stretched…like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.’ We begin to fall apart physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the simple reason that we are not existing as we were meant to exist…
“If you’re feeling burdened and heavy laden, you must question whether you’re as humbly submitted to Him as you believe yourself to be…It’s entirely possible that you are still plowing under your own direction and strength.”
So, here’s to finding rest in the One who created rest. Here’s to searching in humility and truth to find what motivates our actions. Here’s to seeking a humble and quieted heart.