By Alli Bauck
As a stay-at-home-mom with two active boys between the ages of 1 and 4 (and in my second trimester with boy #3), I try to make time for—and not take for granted—physical rest. Naptime and nighttime are sacred at our house.
I don’t know who needs to hear this but rest is not a reward.
You don’t have to earn rest. You need rest. You deserve rest.
You are worthy of rest simply because you are a living being.
And don’t ever feel guilty for taking time to rest.
I was halfway through my daily gratitude journaling for the month of November when I realized that four of the blessings all shared this theme: sleeping in; rest; naps; and a restful night’s sleep. Did I mention, I really treasure moments of physical rest?
While I am grateful for physical rest, I have a more difficult time prioritizing moments of spiritual rest. Perhaps it is because I don’t see the need for spiritual rest as clearly in my daily life? I’m often too busy to notice when my faith fuel tank symbol lights up. Also, I think Satan prefers it when I’m running on empty. He constantly distracts me from that little warning light because he doesn’t want me visiting God’s grace station. But God seems to think both physical and spiritual rest are divine gifts intended for our good.
On the seventh day of creation, God rested (Genesis 2:2). Aren’t we tempted to view this holy hiatus as a result of God’s cosmic construction project? But God is not human; the Almighty doesn’t need to take a personal day from being the Ruler of the Universe. God rested on the seventh day to set a gracious example for us and appoint the Sabbath for us to observe each week (Genesis 2:3).
The Sabbath rest can even be called a covenant and sign between God and God’s chosen people (Exodus 31:12-17), and a covenant or promise of relationship even foreigners can hold onto (Isaiah 56:1-8). The Sabbath belongs to the promise that makes God’s people unique and a blessing to the world.
The Bible also tells us that Jesus rested. As the Word made flesh, Jesus shared our human likeness and frequently retreated in isolation to recharge for His earthly ministry. In these times of pause, Jesus prayed and slept, experiencing the need and the blessing of physical and spiritual rest. I love the fact that Jesus even took naps!
When I am physically tired, I have some methods for dealing with it (naps being high on my list). But when it comes to spiritual rest and renewal, I find my options and my experience much more limited. Maybe that’s why I don’t notice when I am spiritually tired as often, and why I am slower to try and refuel when I do notice.
What would be the spiritual equivalent of going to bed early, or setting the alarm an hour later, or taking a power nap? What patterns or activities would allow for refilling my faith fuel tank?
Thinking about spiritual rest as a natural part of a healthy life and looking for habits that help, I notice that I already have some go-to activities that help me take a spiritual siesta.
Reading for Rest
I like reading. Reading refreshes me. Sometimes I will even read to fall asleep, combining two of my favorite blessings: books and naps.
Because I like reading, the right kind of reading can also restore my soul. I like reading the Bible. There is an overwhelming amount of it, though, and it can be dense and sometimes confusing. So I also like reading resources that include Scripture and also show me how the meaning of the words gets applied in real life. This type of devotional reading is a kind of spiritual rest for me.
Recently, I got to be part of a collaborative project from Next Step Press. I was thrilled when my copy of Be Still and Notice came in the mail and I got to see my name in print! But then I started reading what other people had contributed. I found people, like me, who often struggle, and who always need Jesus, and who sometimes have profound insight that inspires me to take deep, enlightening breaths.
If you are more of an extrovert, having a meaningful conversation with friends might be an equivalent for you. I enjoy visiting with friends; but I have also found meaningful spiritual renewal by reading.
Creating for Rest
I like to be creative. I enjoy writing, and journaling, and crafting. I like making something with my mind and hands that speaks truth to my eyes and heart. I find, as a creative person, the creative act is a kind of spiritual rest, especially when that creativity is connected to God’s Word.
That’s one reason I love being part of the Light in the Darkness Social Learning group for Advent. The hymn journal the group uses includes faith experiments that let me focus on Scripture in new ways. The music and the devotions and the podcasts for each chapter all feed both my soul and my creative side.
The word “inspiration” is related to the word for “spirit” and the word for “breath”. The time spent engaging my whole person feels like a form of spiritual meditation. Although not everything I try turns out the way I hoped, I find being creative with the Spirit is a breath of fresh air in my hectic week!
Learning for Rest
My favorite kind of learning was never limited to the classroom. I enjoy learning how to cook a new recipe or trying fun activities with my kids. I like finding out more about #momlife from people I trust who have been there before.
Even the process of trying, and failing, and getting better at something can be a source of delight. Learning isn’t always fun the whole time, but I’ve noticed how learning something new can refresh me spiritually.
This fall, Visual Faith Ministry launched a year-long online invitation to spiritual learning called The Movable Adventure. I got to be a small part of the big picture. But watching these videos, listening to stories of transformation, learning and trying new ways of engaging God’s Word—it’s all been a rejuvenating way of staying connected to Jesus.
The videos are short, but there are lots of them, so I get to pick what interests me today. Maybe that’s part of the key to Learning for Rest: choosing something to learn that’s relevant and interesting to you right now. In any case, I’ve found that time in The Movable Adventure has helped me feel well-rested spiritually.
What are some ways you practice rest in your life? Do you take power naps? Or sleep in on your day off?
How do you rest spiritually? Do you Read for Rest, Create for Rest, or Learn for Rest? Or do you have other tools or methods that help you fill up your spiritual fuel tank?
Noticing what helps you rejuvenate your faith life might even help you notice when you need to refuel, and give you a plan for what to do when you just need to rest and refresh your soul.
It’s OK to be tired, physically and spiritually. Rest is not a reward for working hard; rest is a basic human need, hard-wired by God and modeled by Jesus. In your pauses for rest, you get to practice dependence on the grace and power of God, Who renews all things.
Whew! I’m going to go take a nap…