Don’t be too jealous, but see that photo up above, in the header? That’s where I am, right now, as you’re reading these words. It’s a retreat center called Laity Lodge in the middle of the Texas Hill Country, along the Frio River, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s quite possibly my favorite place on earth.
There are many reasons for my deep and abiding love for Laity, but one of the most precious nuggets of wisdom I have gained during my visits there can be summed up in four words: rest is a good thing. It is a beautiful thing. It is even a necessary thing, if we want to grow and flourish and thrive in this life.
Rest and work are part of the rhythm of our life, and this rhythm is reflected all through our universe in the natural order of things: the fields that must lie fallow after an intense season of harvest; the ground buried deep in winter snows, preparing to once again spring forth with new life.
And of course, for those who observe a Judeo-Christian tradition, we even see a pattern of rest that follows work in the Creation story. Rest is good.
It begs the question: if we know rest is good, why don’t we do it?
Last Sunday at my church, our pastor was talking to us about the sabbatical that he and his family will soon begin. He shared this excerpt from a French poet, Charles Péguy, writing on sleep:
And yet they tell me
There are men who don’t sleep.
I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.
Sleep is the friend of man.
Sleep is the friend of God.
Sleep may be my most beautiful creation.
And I too rested on the seventh day.
…Yes, they tell me there are men
Who work well and who sleep poorly.
Who don’t sleep. What a lack of confidence in me…
As a child lays innocently in his mother’s arms, thus they do not lay.
Innocently in the arms of my Providence.
They have the courage to work. They don’t have the courage to do nothing.
They possess the virtue of work. They don’t possess the virtue of doing nothing.
Of relaxing. Of resting. Of sleeping.
Unhappy people, they don’t know what’s good.
We are a busy, busy culture. There are so many reasons that we don’t rest: we don’t think we have time, we have to keep up with all of our various roles and responsibilities, we have a fear of falling behind or being passed over, we can’t say “no”, and on and on and on.
On Monday, Tsh shared a bit about her plans to say “no” during this season of Lent, which began on Wednesday. Though I know that not all the readers here will observe Lenten practices, the truth is that we can all benefit from rest.
Saying “no” to busy-ness and crazy schedules and an overcommitted life is hard. It’s counter-cultural.
In my family, we might do alright for awhile if we have really hard and fast boundaries in place, but when we loosen the reins and begin to let events and obligations creep in on our time, it is incredibly easy to find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed and exhausted.
And then we have to go back to the beginning again, clearing space in our schedules, as well as our minds and hearts.
Saying “yes” to rest means that we must say “no” to other things – even other good things. But that’s ok. We are not made for constant work and busy-ness without rest. We are made to flourish and thrive in a pattern of work and rest, work and rest.
If you feel weary and long for rest, take a hard look at your schedule. To what can you say “no”, in order to say “yes” to rest?