Life is tiring. Everyone's job has those areas that energize, but also the areas that drain. Family life can be great, but constantly trying to love, serve, discipline and encourage is non-stop. Friends are needed and often such a source of support, but sometimes stress cracks in those relationships turn them into yet another source of frustration. Thirteen years ago a friend wrote me a letter. It was one of those letters you keep, for a long time. I've read it to numerous staff of mine over the years. I had every intention of quoting it recently, but unfortunately, I finally lost it. That friend taught me a lot about rest in one letter. Here are a couple of points he made:
- Rest is not in sleeping late. It might be good for your body, if you are physically exhausted, but it's not the deep, satisfying rest we all need.
- Rest is not in being alone. This is a challenge for me, as a dad of 3 (plus 1 more right now with our foster daughter), all under the age of 4. The thought is that being alone and "clearing my mind" is somehow true rest.
- Rest is not passive, but active and full of faith. It is safe to say that resting is something I have to strive to do. It's not just "vegging" on the couch.
So what is rest, and how do we get it? David tells us in Psalm 62:1
"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him."
Rest is sitting before the Lord, laying all my desires and concerns before Him. It is drawing all my needs from Him. Mother Teresa was once asked, "What does God do when you pray?". She responded, "He listens". And then she was asked, "And what do you do you when you pray?". "I listen", she said. I am finishing a season of my year where I have had very few days off for the past 3 months. I have been building into people, speaking to many, rebuking some, working through tough scenarios with families, giving...giving...giving. My wife knows that next week will be a tough adjustment for me, as I take a week off to "rest". She knows those first couple of days can be tough with me, because I struggle to rest. Here's why:
- I am driven. I like fast pace. I have finally come to accept that about myself. If I see something our organization is doing is effective, I want to talk about how we can do more of it, and soon.
- I like accomplishment. Seeing things getting done motivates me. "Forward" is a word in my mind often. How are we moving something forward? Focusing on where something or someone is, and asking how we can get them to a new place.
- I don't like sitting still. I feel unproductive. It irritates me. In those moments, I feel like I am aimlessly wandering with no plan.
- I am afraid of being insignificant. I believe this is the root of activity for me. There is a deep fear within that if I slow down or stop, people will pass me by.
So there are mine. Those four make resting difficult for me. I know it. There is a verse that hangs above my fireplace. It is there as a constant reminder to me and my family. In the Greek to English translation it reads:
"Come unto me, all the ones laboring and having been burdened, and I will rest you." Mt 11:28
So how about you? Why is it so difficult for you to rest?
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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