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Essential Rest

I can’t think of a better time to write about rest. I’m just coming off nearly three weeks of travel. It became longer than planned because of a death in our family. My husband’s grandfather died this week, and much of the family was flung across the country at the time. I was glad for the delay so that I could be with the others while we said good-bye formally, although we had been saying good-bye for a while as his mind had slipped steadily away and his body soon followed suit.

With a house guest this month the back door has been more like a revolving one. In all our coming and going the routines of work and worship and rest have been upended. A few plants died from lack of water, but the fish in the pond seem to be content thanks to neighbors who helped us keep them fed.

On the one weekend of the last three weeks when my little family was altogether we all slept past 8 a.m., which is pretty unusual. Our need for rest amid fun and travel and time spent with friends was showing itself. The rhythms of daily rest and weekly Sabbath hold many good purposes. I’ve written about the spiritual significance of the detachment it fosters before. I’m in my fifth year of attempting to maintain a weekly practice of Sabbath rest. Here are a few reasons for why I keep at it . . .

* to practice my trust that God does not need me to run the world – even my small corner of it

* to honor my own incarnational life by treating my body and mind with loving respect and rest

* to rest in the presence and hope of God’s goodness and provision rather than running frantically along as if I must act in order to be welcomed and received by God’s lovingkindness

* to care for the creation by demanding less of it

* to lean more fully into the sheer delight of life without trying to make,  do, or accomplish something; this is not laziness or lack of care, but reining in my own ambition for the sake of healing and atunement to the language and love of God and all creation

Now that I’ve come to depend on this rhythm, when it is disrupted, I’m even more aware of my need for it. The practice has reshaped my desires in this way. And thus it refashions my body and mind. I’m a long way from getting this right, but I’m feeling the call to keep on trying.

Here’s what Jesus had to say about it. These verses from Matthew were part of last week’s lectionary readings:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

One thing  I’ve noticed is the essential need for this to be a shared practice. Weekly rhythms of worship help, but many Christian faith communities turn Sundays into more work and meetings rather than a time of rest. It takes courage and patience to resist the 24-7 world of convenience and demand, but the ancient practice and my own experience keep telling me this is worth trying.

How about you? Have you tasted of the wisdom found in God’s good rest for you? Are you weary or carrying heavy burdens? You are invited to try laying them down for a few hours each week . . . God’s rest is waiting for you.