The Real Work of Rest


Photo by Seabimarium via Creative Commons Flickr

Photo by Seabimarium via Creative Commons Flickr

Rest has always eluded me. I’m an achiever, a veritable list maker. If I can pen a goal on paper with the hope of crossing it off, I know I can make it happen.

“Make it happen,” became the theme of my late teens and early twenties when I attended a discipleship training program where this statement was mantra. We had more than 100 students, who like me, were eager to know God and receive ministry training.

Like an army, we received marching orders from leaders along with those three words. And we accomplished huge tasks for the church, but the real work of union with Christ and rest in Christ was lost on us. 

We worked 15-hour days building the Halloween attraction, “House of Horrors,” which would pull thousands through a hell house designed to preach the gospel. The intention was good, but the tactics pandered to people’s fear of death and only hinted at the crux of the gospel–utter connectedness to a loving God.

We worked for the church like we were working to keep ourselves out of hell—hard and with pure devotion. We—or at least I—approached chapel and daily quiet times with the same make-it-happen attitude.

It’s laughable now. I really thought a relationship with Christ could be initiated and maintained by me. I might actually laugh if I didn’t see so many people chasing that rabbit down the same hole that left me physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted.

I must have really believed I could sanctify myself. I had little concept of grace or biblical rest, nor an inkling that I might have a gaping need for both.

When I think about my time spent in Master’s Commission, I see the same heart the older son had in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal. I worked for God like a slave serving a master, not a dearly loved child.

And when love isn’t the core of your theology fear will be.

Until I read Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel, I had little understanding of God’s grace beyond the theological.

Ten years later, grace still boggles my mind, and I have a daily need to preach the gospel to myself. If I don’t, my default posture of trying to earn God’s love always returns.

Even after a decade of living in grace, I still prefer a spiritual do-do list that doesn’t include much rest. I want to work at prayer and Bible study, but I’m learning true understanding takes place in restful meditation.

Union with Christ doesn’t happen when we’re on the go all the time.

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili via Creative Commons Flickr

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili via Creative Commons Flickr

Photo by Donnie Ray Jones via Creative Commons Flickr

Photo by Donnie Ray Jones via Creative Commons Flickr

More and more I notice how truth sneaks into my heart best when I go for a walk or lie down to put the kids to a nap. It’s during these times the metaphors of the Bible make the most sense to me.

It’s at the park with my sons that I see how we’re all just children that God constantly picks up and dusts off.

If you’re in need of rest for your spiritual life, hear the words of Christ today. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS” (Matthew 11:28-29).

11 thoughts on “The Real Work of Rest

  1. “I worked for God like a slave serving a master, not a dearly loved child.” When I was scrolling down to post, I saw your tag “Legalism” and thought: A child knows nothing about law, but loving and being loved as they are. (yeah, it wasn’t exactly that, I edited some..)

    You sure write beautifully. Keep going. <3

  2. Wow, what a great post, Trish. You are so very right! And what’s more, let me add that the whole “rest” thing is incredibly important both to us and to God. Once in a while, (one seventh of the time, to be precise), we really NEED to set things down and trust that God is both willing and able to run His entire Kingdom (even our little corner of it), without our help, direction, or management… all on His own. Why do we “need” to? Because He’s “gonna git us” if we don’t? Nope…. because if we don’t we will become “weary”, beyond tired or fatigued. We run down, lose our joy and energy, and can get where we can’t ever rest properly for fear that something is going wrong if we don’t stay on top of every detail at every moment.

    Sabbath, He calls it. And it’s far more than just refraining from strain and recovering strength. It’s a statement of trust of Him, played out in our willingness and obedience just to let Him be Him for one seventh of the time.

    As a confirmed and card-carrying workaholic, I learned this one the hard way. But here’s yer sure fire stress reliever and burnout preventor.

    Grace to thee! The Little Monk

    • I’ve been thinking about this comment the last two days, “moving at His pace, without rush or hurry.” Yes! That is a great way to describe walking in the Spirit isn’t it. Walking in the flesh is all about the rush and hurry and the achieving.

  3. I love this! I have made the same mistake several times, but I’m learning that rest is vital to seeing His love AND showing it. I also feel this peace, rest, and grace when I go for a long walk or sit on the back porch swing. :) thanks for sharing!

    • Stephanie, May God continue to show us both the meaning of resting in Him. May you abide with Him during this Christmas season. I think if we could grasp the love God has for us, we would spend more times walking with Him and sitting on porch swings with Him.

  4. I know for myself as a woman when I was much younger and my children were small I found myself going about being busy for the Lord. Many times I found myself missing actual church services due to services that I committed to at church. There was the nursery during Sunday school, mission friends on Sunday evenings and so on. You get the picture. My soul was not getting nourished. I would come home from church on Wednesdays and Sundays so tired plus needing to take care of my own young family. As I grew I learned better ways to take care of me, still serve my church and have that peace to walk with God. I wish that for you as well as all of us. Thank you so much for your blog.

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