The Guilt of Rest

I’ve been trying to write this post for more than a month now. Think I’m joking? I’m not. Why did it take so long to write a single post? Did I get distracted? Yes. Was I being lazy? No. Do I love to write? Yes. Is it the last thing at the bottom of a very long to-do list? Always.

I’m not sure I can pinpoint when it happened, but somewhere at some point in the last decade (or let’s be honest, when I was twelve),  I subscribed to the idea that resting wasn’t for me. I decided that time-outs, afternoons off and quiet weekends weren’t the best use of my time. Rather, I chose to believe they might just be the worst. I decided that production meant progress and progress was everything. I found a way to fill most every waking hour with some activity, project, or to-do list item.  I convinced myself that those things were more important, meaningful and mattered more than grabbing a book off a shelf and curling up in a corner, setting my phone aside and sitting down on the floor to play dolls, or taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon. And when I did choose rest over work, I felt guilty about it. If I’m being perfectly honest I need to re-write the previous sentence to read, when I do choose rest over work I feel guilty about it.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my guilt. I think a lot of people, women, moms, small business owners, creatives, men, professionals, even kids are falling in the trap of believing that we’re supposed to be super human beings that don’t rest. We work and we play, but we never rest. If we do rest, we certainly don’t admit to it. Trouble is,  I don’t think that’s actually what were supposed to be doing. Yes, I believe we we’re made for work, and I think we should take time to play. I also think God intended that we would rest.

In the Bible, in the book of Mark, we read the story of Jesus sending the 12 Apostles out into the world two by two.  Upon their return, they gave an account of all they had done. Jesus responded not by telling them to go and do some more, but rather he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31).

And all the people (especially the introverts) said “Amen”. While a “desolate” place might not be at the top of your list (or mine), the idea of a quiet place, alone, with your goal being to rest, sounds absolutely amazing. Sometimes, even grown-ups need to take a time-out.

I remember in college I had a friend who was already out and working in the real world,  and I remember how he told me (with an air of sophistication and pride) how he usually only slept 4-5 hours a night. At that time I thought it was a little crazy, now I wonder how long he was able to maintain that kind of a routine without major repercussions. I think we need to put rest back on the teeter totter,  the one we’re constantly trying to balance between our work/business lives and our personal lives. There are always going to be times when we simply can’t have as much sleep or as much rest as we would like, or honestly need. But we need to stop feeling guilty about the times that we are able to rest.  I believe we should intentionally make margin in our lives for those activities that refresh us. Whether that means reading a book, playing with your kids (while they still want you to), praying, binge watching Netflix, playing a pick-up game of soccer in the park, or meeting friends for a meal.

Whatever it is that fills you up, refreshes you, and gives you rest… make time for that and leave the guilt out of it.

We were made for work, but we were also made for rest. I want to work hard when it’s time to work and when the work is done (and sometimes even when it’s not) I want to shut the computer down, put the phone away and follow the words of Jesus by finding that quiet place and resting awhile.

I could probably write an entire chapter of an entire book on this topic, only I’m not sure it would be productive. I’d rather go and play a card game with my six year-old. Who always manages to win.

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"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."

Matthew 7:15-20 ESV