What happened to rest? It appears to be something of a lost art. Even our understanding of rest is up for grabs. Holiday appears to equal rest. By the same token, we have substituted busy for productive.
Being able to rest, then to live from a state of rest rather than it being an event participated in sounds fanciful! There is a state of rest that I believe is only available to us when we choose to make our home in the presence of God. This state of rest is known as abiding and it is different to simply taking some time out or going on holiday. Rest has a sense of finiteness about it, while abiding is a continuing decision to dwell, to remain and to stay.
It takes a deliberate act of the will to rediscover the true meaning of resting and abiding in rest. I think it takes courage to be one who lives from that place. To put it another way, true rest is not something we end up doing…it is a way of travelling through life.
So what does it look like to live from rest as we travel?
Abiding is not a sporadic or once off act. It is a deliberate, considered choice to be in a place or state of being. For those of us who choose Jesus, abiding is about remaining in Him and allowing His Word to abide or remain or dwell in us.
You can rest without abiding, but you cannot abide without rest.
Taking a power nap, a day off or even an extended vacation does not mean that we are abiding or living from rest as we travel through life. In fact, it is possible to be worn out by the very activities we engage in while we are trying to rest! How often do people (not us of course) fill their holidays with activity because time is limited and they don’t want to ‘waste’ time doing ‘nothing’! It’s not hard to find examples of rest becoming stress.
And here we reach a pivotal point in the conversation on rest. We don’t value rest. If we truly valued it, we would take the time to practice and teach it. Instead rest is quietly regarded by many as at best, self-indulgent and at worst, lazy. Rest is something that everyone says the want more of, yet few deliberately take the time to practice.
It is a fact that we live in a time poor world and that the demands of family, work, and extra-curricular activities leave us despairing that we will ever feel rested. Time saving devices and technology surround us and yet we are exhausted. Our parents (depending on your age!) and grandparents did not have the luxury of these and yet there seemed to be time to rest. Sunday afternoon naps after lunch often meant that kids had to quietly play in their rooms, or indeed rest if they got bored!
Boredom! That’s a whole other 21st century, first world ‘problem’. Boredom has become a dirty word. Could it be that a pathway to true rest, the kind found in abiding, is so hard because of our demands for constant and immediate entertainment? We insulate ourselves from boredom with incessant activity. Many of these activities are completely right and proper in and of themselves, but they add up to generations unable to understand, let alone experience, the kind of rest that comes from deliberately choosing to abide and live in from a place of rest.
2000 years ago Jesus recognised our tendency for busyness over rest. He invites us to learn a new way of travelling. He invites us to learn the unforced rhythms of grace from Him.
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message Translation
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
How do we find rest in a restless world?
Recognise that rest is not a moment in time, but a way of travelling through life.
When we approach rest from this understanding, rest becomes a journey rather than a final destination. Rest becomes an unfolding of a different way of doing life and will ultimately transform our experience of life and the way that others experience us.