The Choice of Rest

Jane Austen wrote in Persuasion (my favorite book of hers) that “None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”

The truth is, while this may be true for some, some of us are desperately seeking calm waters because it feels like we have been in that boat the disciples find themselves in, in the middle of the storm, for far too long. Some of us wonder— do I get a shot at calm waters— like, ever?

I have shared before that rest is a true challenge for me. I don’t do it well. I rest during the hours of Sabbath, and even that has been reduced to hours because I have found myself working into the early hours of the morning after Saturday sundown in the most unsustainable way. I am still sort of like the little me who found the rest hours of Sabbath boring and wanted her parents to wake up from nap to play or something. That is still me, deep down inside. I can’t just be still. I want to be onto the next thing.

This week, I think I heard Edie Wadsworth in a YouTube presentation say what I have also heard my etiquette instructor repeat a lot, which is that how we spend our time marks our priorities. I know that deep inside. That is why I like to plan things. It marks priorities. That said though, when I get sucked into things I can’t shake off that affect my only hours with my partner, this reflects poorly on boundaries and priorities.

This week, I have been reading Brady Boyd’s writings on being Addicted to Busy, in devotional form. He touches a lot on Jesus’ rhythmic way of resting. God didn’t just rest on Sabbath. He often retreated. You notice that depicted accurately a lot in The Chosen. Suddenly, the focus is on the disciples because Jesus has disappeared to some place, and they await His return and rallying of the troops.

I have been chewing on this a lot lately. Jesus, God of the universe in the flesh, retreated and found rest and recharging to be worth His time and necessary. He left people waiting to be healed in encampments and disciples freaking out and bickering because He understood something about us that we still have not grasped. He wasn’t just leaving. He was showing us something.

Boyd writes, “What has always been most notable about Jesus’ voluntary withdrawals is not that He rested but when He chose to rest. He withdrew to rest when people still needed Him and also when His ego would have been tempted to stay.”

He who could perform miracles and quite literally fix everything and anything didn’t have an ego or lack of boundaries where that meant He was forced to stay uninterrupted helping people. I think when you have a job of helping people, you feel that incredible pressure to always keep going, striving and doing. It’s for the people, after all. Rest seems somehow wrong— until you are pissed, resentful, and physically depleted. And then, when you arrive to that point, you realize you have made a terrible mistake.

In Toward Rest, by Alabaster, I found these thoughts:

“We can’t say yes to everything. We can’t go everywhere and see everyone. We can’t have it all. We aren’t indispensable. We are beings who need rest. And that is not a bad thing. It is a Godlike thing.” Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

“Rest is at the heart of being with God.”

God models rest as a choice. God does not solely rest from tiredness or necessity, but because it is simply worth it.” The fact that it is a choice forces us to take ownership and not just be victims of people, systems or life. It points to control we have to focus and prioritize.

“We are citizens of another kingdom— a kingdom not ruled by the clock and the tyranny of the urgent.” Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

“In rest, we acknowledge that God works when we do not.”

“Relearning to rest is relearning dependence.”

There is a lot to process here.

⁃ We are not indispensable;

⁃ We are not God— but the best way to be Godlike is to rest not to work yourself to death;

⁃ We were created for rest;

⁃ Rest is a choice we must be intentional about;

⁃ Urgency is no way to live; and

⁃ We are supposed to live in dependence to God.

Dependence is another thing I struggle with. I often loath the level of dependence this city forces me to have on people, broken systems and others’ chaos. If there is any place where you can get sucked into someone else’s chaos not wanting it— it is NYC. Stabbings and mental illness stall trains, block off streets and shatter your own movement and time ALL THE TIME. It drives me nuts.

But that aside, while dependence often means chaos and being stuck, the truth is we must distinguish it because with God it means rest and true freedom from the tyranny of the world and its systems.

I haven’t cracked the code or any damn thing. So don’t take this as some message from some high horse. Because there is no horse. I lost the horse, ok?

This is just me acknowledging that I have totally screwed up, and I desperately need rest. I have been trying to wear clothes that are too big for me, and I look and feel tired and ridiculous.

I am telling you this in case it strikes a chord with you, having just made the decision that I am not working this weekend (or other weekends to pick up the slack for others). I have plenty I could do that others are demanding or neglecting, but I just decided this doesn’t reflect the values I want to have and the life I want to live. It is draining me of the joy I should have now. I also know and crave that I want time in nature and beauty. True nature and beauty. My body physically craves quiet green spaces. I am drained by the gritty gum spotted sidewalks and the one park that exists next to the highway and under one of the largest suspension bridges in America where you can barely hear yourself think. (Though I do love the squirrels there). Every park in my neighborhood is loud by the water and highway. It is wild. There is no quiet space.

This city, whether it’s nature or work— whatever it offers, it is the very opposite of what our minds need. It leaves me personally on edge (and others too. Why do you think people fight all the time and yell at each other— strangers yell at each other all the time!). And I will have to find a way around that while I remain here to stay sane. Serious adjustments are coming. I still am not sure what that will look like. That is ok. I guess the first step is discovering that whatever I am doing isn’t working. Additionally, once a person lets go of the myth that you have to get something done because you are the only one who will do it (even if it is true you are the only one who will) — once you realize you can calm down because no one made you Jesus, then you have space to work with.

I need the space. I desire the calm waters. Maybe another mistake was thinking the calm waters would just come magically in a manic world that rages to the brim with problems and dynamics. Jane Austen was idealistic in an unhealthy way, let’s not forget. Maybe some people are born for calm waters and others aren’t. From what I can tell, life is like NYC, where everyone’s chaos gets thrown your way, and yet, God models that we have a choice. Time to steer this little boat out of the many storms that rock it. Or at least sit and tell Jesus to take the wheel, so to speak.

Or maybe, the storms remain and Jesus wants us out of the boat completely. Right? Maybe the boat is all the stuff we pretend keeps us safe and moving. Like if a train won’t move from the station, you get out and walk. Hell, Simon Peter was overwhelmed and testy— not too far from how I have felt in recent time. And what did he do? He stepped out of the boat. He showed us faith can have us ride out the storm on foot. He showed us that, as I read this week, “proximity to Jesus” is the only thing that keeps us from drowning no matter how wild and out of control everything else remains. Because He is love. And He is the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

I am figuring things out like the next person. So yeah, maybe the storms do remain and no one knows what the hell Jane Austen was talking about— but maybe the purpose of the stormy waters is to keep our eyes on Him. To keep us clinging to Him, because Rest is “at the heart of being with God.” Because there is one thing I do know about life: it is one hell of a ride where hearts break and bones shatter, as they say. And the other thing I am sure of is that this ain’t it. There is so much more beyond this, and our hearts should remain anchored in that. He is all. He is enough. He is still the God who fights while Israel sleeps.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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