Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV
When sharp words dart from my mouth before I’m even aware that they’ve formed on my tongue. When the muscles in my shoulders grow tense and ache as though I’ve just finished lifting with a heavy set of weights. When a thick fog fills my mind with a swelling effect that throbs and causes my thoughts to lose clarity. When I suddenly realized that it’s been awhile since I’d last taken a breath. I now see these moments as hazard lights flashing neon yellow to warn me about the dangerous territory I’m expecting my mind, body, and spirit to function in. I focus in on the issue at hand: an absence of rest.
I know I must get away and rest. Not only does my body demand attention to this that I can no longer ignore, but Scripture tells me. It appears in Mark 6:31 and in Matthew 11:28 where Jesus tells me to come to Him and He will give me rest. I know that rest is so important that God commands His people to carve out a ritual of rest (Exodus 20:8-11). But when is the last time I truly observed the Sabbath in my life?
Based on the neon yellow warning signs flashing around me, it’s been far too long.
I used to imagine the type of rest God talks about as a picturesque escape to a cabin in the words or at a vineyard in Italy on vacation.
Near impossible, right? How do I find rest in my real, everyday, ordinary life when the schedule is unforgiving and responsibilities pile up faster than the laundry?
I must find a rhythm of rest for my soul to be well. I’ve learned to think intentionally and creatively about rest.
Now rest might come as I deepen my inhalation and lengthen my exhalation wherever I am. Sometimes I close my eyes as I breathe and visualize my breath. I mentally watch as stress and angst leave my mouth slowly and controlled. As I inhale through my nose, I breathe in a prayer, sometimes even using this verse from Mark as a breath payer. In a matter of 60 seconds, I have found a moment of rest.
Some days I carve out 5 minutes from my schedule and find rest as I step outside. I plant my feet in the earth and lift my gaze to the vast sky above me. Maybe I’m not surrounded by the peaceful rolling hills in the Tuscan countryside. Maybe I’m standing in my driveway in middle Tennessee. But it doesn’t matter because I’m outdoors finding spiritual whitespace (as Christian author Bonnie Gray likes to call it) and breathing in the fresh crisp air. I’m away from screens and walls and all things confining and in the open expanse of creation, near nature, near God. Or maybe I walk around the block or sit on the concrete steps of my front porch or lay down on the lush green grass. Exactly how I spend my 5 minutes outside doesn’t matter, what matters is I’ve disconnected from all that pulls at me, and I’m communing with God in His creation. And here I find my rest.
Maybe I say no more in order to protect areas of rest in my schedule. Maybe I take a 15-minute power nap on the days I find myself home despite the to-do list knocking on the door. Maybe I set limits on my screen time (and there are plenty of apps to help me do that).
Whether it’s 60 seconds, 60 minutes, or 6 whole days, I find ways to tuck myself into God’s presence where I focus on His promises. And when I do, I am at rest wherever I am. It is well with my soul. I’m refreshed, refocused, restored, and renewed. I’m ready to serve and love and live well.
How can you establish a rhythm of rest in your life? Did any ideas come to your mind as you were reading? Grab a pen and spend a minute brainstorming what rest can look like in your life right now. If you’re unsure, maybe come return here after you’ve spent some time in prayer.
In the limitations and frailty of our humanity, we grow weary and long for relief from the busyness, the burdens, the demands, and all that pulls on us in our lives. You know this, which is why You Yourself provide the rest we long for and why You don’t just suggest we rest, You give it as a command for us to follow. Yet, we don’t always obey here. Forgive us. May You be with us now as we pause and still our minds and hearts before you. In this moment, as we quiet ourselves momentarily in prayer, let us be aware of You and rest in Your presence. [Pause here in the silence and stillness and take 5 or 6 deep breaths]. Lord, we come to You expectant for the rest You give. Guide us into establishing daily rhythms of rest with You. Thank You for replenishing us and strengthening us as we do.
Kristin Vanderlip is an Army wife, bereaved mom to her little girl in heaven, and mom to her two rainbow boys. A decade ago you could find Kristin teaching English in a middle school classroom, and now she is a freelance editor and writer. Kristin writes to help women seek the Lord and hold on to hope, especially when life is hard. She is the author of Life Worth Living: A Daily Growth Journal and Living Life Well: A Daily Growth Journal for Kids. You can find Kristin at www.kristinvanderlip.com.
This is one of the articles from the rest issue. Read more about it and buy it here.