repose, sleep, specifically : a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities
there’s something holy about rest, i’m learning. i used to not think this way.
when i was a kid, i hated to rest. rest meant you had gotten in trouble or that the grown people needed some peace and quiet. we even had a daily quiet time at kids’ church camp, whom someone named “Mandatory Rest” in our cabin booklets, and it was as awful as it sounded (although now that i look back, i’m sure this time was crucial for our counselors to recharge). we would lie on our cheap polyester sleeping bags which never stayed put on the plastic camp mattresses, and try and keep quiet by drawing, secretly passing notes, and most likely getting scolded for not being quiet enough. REST meant no fun, and we all dreaded it.
when i was in college, a nap was golden. naps were a necessary thing when you ended your last class at 10pm, and still had 6 hours of activities planned for yourself, such as meeting friends in the SUB to “study”, heading to denny’s at midnight to “study” more because we were growing college students desperately in need of sustenance to force more statistics and anthropology into our tired brains, and then going home and finishing all the homework you didn’t finish when you were “studying” earlier. i would come home between early classes and a part time job, set multiple alarms, and crash immediately. then i would wake up late after snoozing too many times, rush to class all groggy and shaky, and do it all again that night. there was sleep, but not much rest.
and then came marriage and motherhood. now i yearn for all the times i could have slept, but didn’t, because once you have children, you CANNOT SLEEP. it’s not insomnia, it’s children, and it doesn’t end when your babies sleep through the night. on nights they went to bed early, i kept myself awake with craft projects, starting a photography business, watching tv with my husband, or just plain foolishness. we would keep ourselves awake to watch a movie, only to wake up at 3am, neck kinked from sleeping upright on a sagging sofa. sometimes we couldn’t even remember which movie we had rented. sleep was elusive, but it was also last priority because time was short, and we wanted to spend a few moments, kid- free, as a reward of sorts for making it through a busy work week. but it left us more drained and less rested, and i wish i would have realized the difference between sleep and rest.
whenever anyone at church talked about rest, they almost always mentioned that God rested, so if He needed rest, why should we think we could do without? that always bothered me, because I didn’t think that God NEEDED to rest. it would mean that He was weary, and the Bible tells us that God doesn’t grow faint or weary. so why then, would He need to rest?
as i grow in my understanding of God’s heart and character, things have become more fluid, but more consistent somehow. my opinion of the rigidity of God’s law was softened by my realization of the heartache He felt over His people bowing to foreign gods over and over again. the black and white, all or nothing approach to right and wrong was reaaranged by the life of Jesus and the way He loved people. and somehow in the mix of all of these small changes, i realized something about rest.
God didn’t rest because He needed to. could it be that this was not a holy need but a supernatural want? somehow, in all of His infinite wisdom, holiness, power, omniscience, and more, He stopped to take a rest. why stop when you’re creating the entire universe? when you’re on a roll, separating light from darkness and making sure plants breathe in the very gas that humans breathe out and vice versa, fashioning every living thing in existence and making sure the planets rotate perfectly, why would you pause?
and even the way I think about this is earthly– God didn’t need momentum or ambition or even energy– He just does what He does because He wants to, and we can see so much of who He is by what He does. but i have to think that God had us in mind when He rested. When He formed Adam out of dust and breathed life into him, and then took a rib and formed Eve, that there was a sense of completeness in his artistry, an “ending” to that portion of history, and that He would show us that rest is good when the job is done.
sometimes rest means saying no. sometimes rest means saying no to something good, like coffee or a party with friends when you’re exhausted beyond belief. sometimes rest means sleep, but sometimes it means a quiet house instead of blasting music while you’re folding laundry. sometimes rest means a nap and sometimes it means taking a walk. and sometimes rest means realizing we cannot do it all, and we can be okay with setting aside the remainder of our to-do list until another day.
and how will we know if we are actually resting? when that hurried feeling fades and we are able to breathe and we aren’t beating ourselves up for not being enough. we will know when we feel at peace with what we have accomplished and what we don’t have time for today.
could God have created more on day 7? He could have, but He didn’t, and its a powerful reminder for us to do what God calls us to do, and not one inch more or less.
come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden
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.