What does rest look like? God talks of rest and in Isaiah 30:15 says “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it,” which makes one wonder why church is so busy all the time.
I’ve just been away for 4 days with Interweave, UK Reconciliation group, and there the theme God wanted to pull out was rest and hoI w it was only in rest that we could be able to know what God had planned for us. Rest is counter-cultural. Life is about being busy and doing things and getting on in life. Work is seen as something that you work more hours than contracted for and then have busy recreational life. We’re now at a time when more books than ever are published and there are more TV programmes to watch than ever but we are expected to be doing all the time.
I have been brought to an enforced time of rest but it is hard to stay here, and hard to tell people what I do, or don’t do. I talk of looking for work, when in fact I think God has been saying very clearly not to look for work. Resting is scary because it gives time for me to think, think about the last few years and how I feel about what has gone on. The first month of my resting time has been filled with grief, of what should have been. Interestingly that was something that kept coming out as people told their stories over the last few days. God seemed to have decided that instead of us doing something reconciliation stuff in UK He wanted us just to build relationship and become vulnerable with each other. So we told our stories. So much came out that things had not “turned out as they should have” and a lot of talk of “what should have been.” It was all done in a positive stance of it not being fair and not how it should be. It was like everyone was affirming each other that at times its ok to stamp one’s feet and say “its not fair” and you know what – God can cope with that. So much of what we are led to believe in church and in our culture is that one should just pick oneself up and keep going. Though we also pay more than ever for counsellors, therapists, therapeutic treatments, as well as recreational drugs. Maybe if we slowed things down and rested then we could save some money? Maybe if we were allowed to say “its not fair” “it shouldn’t have turned out that way” and then really grieve then maybe we could save some money. So these past few days myself and others were able to say that things didn’t work out as they should have and that we were grieving that and that was ok. From that place of honesty we could rest.
But it is also from that place of rest and honesty that one can re-evaluate one’s life. Things haven’t worked out as they should have so what was planned will not now happen and that’s ok. Interestingly whilst I was away my son, who’d just joined the army, found out that a couple of old rugby injuries meant that he is going to be medically discharged. This was not his plan. I haven’t spoken to him but I am sure he is saying “its not as it should have been.” He’s made some big life changes before he went in in preparation. He will be grieving. He will also have to be rethinking what he does. He needs to rest and re-evaluate where he is going and what he is going to do. And that’s ok. And it’s also ok for him to be angry that it didn’t work out. Same as its ok for me to be angry that people I loved committed suicide, died too soon, things I’d hoped for didn’t happen, for my friends to be angry at deaths that shouldn’t have happened, partners that shouldn’t have left, jobs that should have happened. I think rest is to acknowledge that, to be honest about life and relax into it.
There were some in our group who know how to find that rest even when their diaries are full. They have learned to dip into that rest and listen to what they should be doing, know where to put the “its not fair” stuff. But that didn’t mean they told others of us to just get over it. They affirmed in us that we needed to say and feel the way we did.
So what is rest? For me at the moment it is time walking my dog, hearing a friend’s life story and writing that and other things on the couch with dog and cat wrapped around me, studying for my Masters and catching up with friends. I am also starting 4 hours tutoring a week and we are renting our spare room out on Airbnb. This will bring in enough money to keep us going so we don’t have to worry about that. For my husband it is working 4 days a week, attending church meetings and going walking and climbing at times, but also finding time to drink wine or coffee, depending on time of day, with me and friends. We’re learning that it’s ok not to do. But I think one of the key things REST means is being open and honest about how one is feeling, being connected to one’s feelings and also connected to God.