Written by Daniel Tidwell : November 16, 2007

I’ve been having trouble sleeping.

This happens to me from time to time.

Being the kind of person who typically requires a few hours less sleep per night than the average, it’s a bit on the discouraging side when I don’t get the rest I expect to. I would love to say that the hours of restlessness have led me into prayer and contemplation, but that would be a misrepresentation.

What those hours do tend to reveal in me is a pervading restlessness of the soul. I get frustrated. I fail to live in the peace that I so desperately believe is there for me. I can’t say for certain if the sleeplessness reflects the restlessness in me, or if they simply rise at the same time.

I do know this: we are missing something important when we fail to read the scriptures in terms of our physical bodies.

I don’t mean this in terms of laying Bibles on body parts that are in pain. I am referring to the far less superstitious and far more neglected practice of reading the Bible as something pertinent to the way we live our physical lives.

Somewhere along the way, maybe when we started disregarding the Levitical food laws, we stopped listening to what God might have to say about our embodied lives. That God created a pattern of rest into the pattern of life seems to have been lost in our pursuit of the capitalist dream.

There is something very practical about the call of Jesus to “come to me and rest.” I realize that there are broad contextual concerns to understanding this passage, but I think there might be something basic in it too.

I am tired. I am weary of chasing after so many things. I want to return to a way of life that incorporates rest, work, communion, celebration, play, prayer—living. That’s what I long for. Something in me strains for—hopes for—a way of life where my faith is expressed, not in a prescribed manner of social displays, but in the fabric of my day to day life reflecting the freeing gospel of Christ.

I’d love to hear some ideas about how to partake in this kind of life. What does rest look like in Christ? How can we embody in our physical lives the gospel that we so frequently proclaim in our spiritual lives? What does Christ mean when he says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”?

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6 Responses to “Rest”

  1. rbooze on November 16th, 2007 7:05 pm

    I hope you find rest. Seek God first and the rest will work itself out.

  2. Jason Barr on November 17th, 2007 2:47 am

    This is a great question. After all, if Christ is Lord of our lives, then he is Lord of our bodies as well, and so he obviously cares that we take care of them and that we submit them to him to find rest.

    I think part of the answer might be in the establishment of rhythms in our lives. Our entire culture is very anti-rhythmic, very out of touch with the cycles of the earth. We evolved and/or were created (depending on your creation/evolution views) as a part of the world in which these rhythms are very important to the ways of life for nearly all God’s creatures, and so it stands to reason that getting in touch with that can help us to find a real kind of rest. There are seasonal rhythms and daily rhythms (and probably others I have not considered), and I tend to think recapturing a sense of the liturgical calendar and of the practice of praying daily offices might be helpful in promoting not just a spiritual peace, but a rest of the whole person. There may be something about associating our prayer lives and our topics of meditation and reflection with our place in life and our needs at particular times that could help in this journey.

    Also, I’m not sure how useful this is, but I found it very interesting - in the passage where Christ says “Come to me and I will give you rest”, he is actually citing the intertestament wisdom tradition (Sirach 6:19-31; 51:26). To make a long story short, Jesus is presented in the Gospels as the embodiment of God’s wisdom, which is intrinsically tied in with his identification with God. I’m sure there’s some kind of profound connection there that I’m missing because it’s nearly 3 am and I need to… rest.

  3. Renee on November 18th, 2007 4:34 pm

    In terms of practical rest, well, if you can, mandate a day of rest, maybe a sabbath. Have one day a week where you don’t work or think too hard for six hours at least. Lock yourself in a room for those hours - pray, fast or meditate or just do nothing. Set aside time to enter God’s presence, undisturbed time. A good chunk of time.

    That is rest.

    I wish I didn’t miss mine today…

  4. Maria Kirby on November 18th, 2007 9:37 pm

    That’s great if you don’t have kids. Some of us don’t have those kind of options. Rest for some of us might just be having a slow day- doing just the essentials- rather attempting to make progress with something. Although if someone were to offer me six hours off, to do nothing but meditate, I’d take it. Sometimes it takes real discernment to determine what is rest. Many times for me, working in my garden is rest, while watching a movie or TV would not.

  5. Renee on November 20th, 2007 8:40 am

    No kids.

    It did cross my mind that this would not be a recommendation for those with children, especially young children.

    But couldn’t you trade rest time with someone else - each babysit each other’s children for that time? Like I said, I don’t have kids, so I don’t know. But, from a non-parent perspective, it seems that parents use their children as well, excuses, for not doing for themselves what must get done - things like exercise, prayer, eating properly, rest. And while having children might limit one’s ability to do those things, they are things that must get done, to some extent. Otherwise that parent will be no good to their children, God, or anybody. And then when they’re completely burned out or ill the sacrifice of working 24/7 won’t matter.

  6. Maria Kirby on November 20th, 2007 7:01 pm

    It’s true kids can be used as an excuse, but so can anything else. There are some jobs though that are kind of 24/7. For responsibilities like that rest is managed differently. Its been my experience that rest is obtained through a combination of seize the moment and planning ahead. Swapping kid time is one of those planning ahead situations. Jesus planned ahead and took time alone in the hills to himself. He directed the disciples to row across lake Gallelie so they could get some space, but the crowds followed them. His response was to teach them and feed them. Another time he seized the moment to get some space by staying at the well while the disciples went to get food. His rest got interrupted by a Samaritan woman. Sometimes we still have to serve even though we need rest.

    Some kinds of serving are restful in themselves. Jesus response to his disciples’ urging him to eat at the well suggest that he found teaching/reaching lost people fulfilling like food.

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