Tumbling in the Sand
Today is my day off. I know, my initial agreement with the congregation actually says I get two days off a week. I’ve never figured out how to do that. Actually, I’m not so great at always taking one day. Good Shepherd is the kind of place where there is constant energy and activity and it has a way of making you energized, too. At least that’s the case with me.
But the problem is that the energy kind of pulls it out of you. In the moment, you’re vibrant … but afterward … And after a month of just a couple days off (several funerals on Fridays and no, I didn’t make it up somewhere else), I am worn down. And I really felt it yesterday (as in, I’m getting sick), so I took some time to rest (not the whole day, I really wanted to see the program at Rotary yesterday and I love the time at Dean’s coffee shop where I enjoy good coffee and chai and talk to wonderful people).
Yes, I need to slow down. And frustratingly, more often than not, I only get it when my body makes me. I really haven’t figured out how to do this well — to balance rest and activity in a life giving way.
I remember once in a sermon I mused about what it was like to be the burning bush — to be on fire with God’s passion, but to not burn up. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that. It seems like it’s possible. Some people seem really good at it — setting strong boundaries, resting and being passionate and productive.
And more than possible, it seems like it’s something that God wants for us. God doesn’t want us to burn up. Jesus comes to give life and live abundant. God commands a day of rest. That even makes the top ten commands and is reiterated multiple times throughout scripture. And not just a day of rest, God goes on to command, “Be still and know that I am God.” And the sense of “be still” is to stop, to go slack, to quit striving. That’s sort of a different sense, isn’t it? “STOP!! and know that I am God.”
You could read a million blog posts on the internet about the holy need and goodness for rest written by a tonne of people who seem to be good at resting. Actually, I even have books —entire, lengthy books—about on the subject. Sabbath as Resistance by Brueggemann for instance of Receiving the Day by Butler Bass or Mudhouse Sabbath by Winner or Leisure: the basis of Culture by Peiper … and …
So, okay, I get it. It’s good and necessary to rest. But how do I do it? How do I stop and rest when the whole world around me encourages and expects being busy? When I myself find busyness to be delightful and stillness to be anxiety provoking?
And, yes, I am and have always been fidgety when I’ve tried to be still. As a child, after I had managed to pick apart a tablecloth while trying to be social with family friends over tea, my mother taught me string games and origami to keep my ever-moving hands occupied. I can barely sit through a movie and binge watching is an impossibility — the closest I got was when I had pneumonia and managed to watch five shows in a row before I felt like I had to do something useful (even though I quite literally couldn’t move without coughing so hard I had to sit down again). Even when I sit still, it’s only because my mind is distracted with many things on the computer and social media and games … not really still. And, even as a point of irony, I went to tag this blog with “rest” and it is my only post I’ve written on the subject. *sigh*
I wish there were an easy answer. I wish I could just wave a magic wand and I’d get it. I wish I could be still and rest.
I imagine, though, (and here’s a serious bit of law for me) that it’s something I just need to practice. Maybe adding a bit at a time … and subtracting something else. Like any other thing. Just like yesterday and today. And maybe it’s the kind of thing that gets easier with grace and time. Maybe, just like balance in yoga, it’s an ever moving stillness that, with practice, feels more and more effortless even though it is consistently effortful.
Whatever it is, it was really good to rest …