A word most of us long for but do not fully understand or know where to find it. That’s where I found myself two years ago, questioning if true rest even existed.
My longing for true rest came like a winter storm. Slowly, steadily, a chill seeped into me until I stepped outside my front door into a blanket of snow I could no longer ignore. It felt like I was standing in the middle of a blizzard without a coat, exhausted and lost.
Rest became the lens through which I began to consider everything. Yet, it seemed unreachable. Even as I craved it, rest did not come as I expected it to.
I found out that rest demanded intentionality.
Rest demanded attention.
In some paradoxical way, rest even demanded work.
My desire--my need—for rest consumed me, but I had none of the tools to enjoy the beauty of the storm. So, I found myself settling for a less-full life. A life with a tinge of irritation when a friend asked me to go out for coffee or anger when a loved one would ask me for help. I began to doubt that this myth called rest could be mine. I looked around. I searched inside. I desperately asked God, but rest seemed to be found nowhere though my longing for it grew more and more.
Then, without realizing I had unknowingly been easing into it, rest became available. It felt like a warm coat had been left at my doorstep. An invitation to a new way of life. I needed only to accept it.
When rest arrived, I was 22 years old. Constant exhaustion defined me. I knew no other way of life. I had lived my past years defined by achievements and success. I read the promises of rest my Father gave me, but they seemed distant and impossible to reach.
But when the world slowed down and the pandemic pushed everyone inside, I decided it was time to embrace the blizzard that I had been trying to ignore.
The time came to truly rest. My school was moved online. My bakery job was furloughed. There was no better time to explore this life that I was so curious about.
And so, with baby steps, I began.
I began with a weekly Sabbath—one day a week where I silenced the world around me and shifted my focus to the world beyond me. I gave myself permission to not be available, which for me meant disconnecting from all (yes, all) forms of technology. I slept in late and cooked good food and left the dishes in the sink. I spent time in nature and curled up with a good book for hours and hours. Some Sabbaths I just sat at a coffee shop and wrote for what seemed like the entire day. This practice slowly began to trickle into my everyday life, leading me to turn my phone off earlier in the evening and turn it on later in the morning, setting time each day to cease working (even if it was not yet finished), and adding more margin in between my daily commitments.
I noticed I began to be more present with others and with myself. I began to feel emotions in a way that I never feel before. Don’t get me wrong—there were moments where rest was more difficult than “light.” Sometimes, it meant saying no to people I loved with what could be perceived of as no valid excuse. Often it meant having to sit in hard feelings without distracting myself by overfilling my schedule. It sometimes looked like spending my Sabbath laying on my bedroom floor yelling at God through honest sobs. But two years later, I can honestly say that even in the painful days, this new form of rest has been irreplaceable in where the Father is leading me.
I am not the same woman I was before I invited rest in.
Please hear me: rest doesn’t fix everything. It’s more like putting on a pair of glasses. The world around you will still be the same. But the new-found clarity gives you a greater ability to see the brokenness. Which is hard, but it is good, too. Really good. Because when we can see the brokenness—both inside and around us—we can shape our world in a way that tends to that brokenness. We have more capacity to be led into the beautiful work of healing, and to lead others alongside us.
I am better person because of rest. I am also a messier person because of rest. But only because I am seeing the truth now. My vision is no longer fogged by the false promises of productivity and achievement. I have learned that I am allowed to be slow, to take as much time as I need to sift through the difficult things.
When we live rushed lives, this is what we lead others into. When we live rested lives, we lead others into intentional lives of healing and enjoyment in God’s creation.
Maybe you feel like your vision is fogged, or maybe you’ve been walking through fog for so long you’re not even sure what clarity looks like. So, I challenge you to ask yourself, do you feel weary and burdened? And if that answer is yes, I remind you that this is not the invitation that Jesus extends to you. He says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
Brother and Sister, He offers you rest. And as radical and scary and impossible as it may seem to step into it, please choose to be bold and fearless and join me. Join me with trembling hands and weary hearts and take a seat at this table of stillness. The door is open, the chair is pulled out for you, and the feast is prepared. Come out of the blizzard and enjoy the warmth and goodness of the Lord.
Emily Thayer is a Birmingham transplant from Westchester, NY and is a strong believer in slow mornings and good coffee. She moved to Birmingham in order to pursue her Bachelors of the Arts in Christian Ministry from Samford University. Since graduating in May she has been focusing on her spiritual growth and creative work in Birmingham including opening The Little Bee Baking Company. You can learn more about Emily through her blog, www.nestingingrace.com.
We were stirred by Jonathan's discussion of territories vs. hierarchies as it relates to artists and writers. As a writer himself, he encourages creators to push past the tendency to compare and tend to their own journeys as creators.