It’s also the one thing I struggle with above all others, and which I many times despair of ever ‘achieving’ in my life.
But that’s the trouble with rest.
How do you ‘achieve’ something that is all about slowing down? Doing less. Trusting. Being patient and quiet. Listening. Being at peace.
The very effort of resting seems to negate the whole point of rest. And how can I be passionate about something that is a constant struggle in my life?
I remember a point in my life where this was made very obvious to me.
I was at a photography workshop in Italy which for several years I had planned and saved to attend. It cost a lot of money, which I had saved and scrimped here and there and everywhere to be able to use in this way. But it was something I was really excited about, and looking forward to with great anticipation.
At the same time, I was building up two businesses – a marketing business and my photography business. I was shooting weddings all over the world and working more than full-time. I had no spare time to speak of – literally, none. And I also have an illness known as chronic fatigue, or M.E. (whose very existence is due in part to overwork and under-rest).
On my way to Italy, I combined several trips into one. A trip to London for work, then a weekend trip to Cambridge to see a friend, then a flight to Italy and hiring a car and driving to my destination.
When I arrived in Italy I was exhausted, frustrated, and getting very sick.
The first night we all sat around an old wooden table with glasses of red wine and fresh bruschetta and dripping candles and hundred-year-old traditions, and talked about why we had come, and what we were passionate about.
Rest was the first thing that came to mind, so I shared that. I may have said a few other things, but that’s all I remember saying.
I remember it most of all because of what the workshop leader said to me several days later.
My exhaustion only increased over the next few days. I was sick all night long, and got no sleep. I was exhausted, broken, sad and hurting. I started looking at flights to go home, because there was no point being in this beautiful place when I couldn’t enjoy or appreciate it.
By the time I had my one-on-one meeting with the workshop leader, I was in floods of tears and I couldn’t even think straight.
He was gracious, and Godly, and loving – but he was very direct. He said a variety of things, but the one thing I remember with perfect clarity is:
“You say you’re passionate about rest, but that’s not evident in your life.”
Bam. Caught out.
I had my eyes opened to the fact that saying you’re passionate about something is negated by not truly being passionate about it.
The turning point (again)
It didn’t happen overnight – even the obvious turning points take time to shift when there are so many factors involved. I had six or seven weddings which in my zeal I had over-booked, and I had to finish those. I had to decide if I poured my efforts into either my marketing business or my photography business, because I couldn’t do both. And I needed to begin to rebuild my health.
But slowly, like a huge ship turning around within turbulent waters, it did happen. I said “no” more often. I slept more. I ate better. I went to counselling. I took a twelve month break from weddings and photography work.
And for a little while – a very little while – I was working and resting and in a better place.
And then it all happened again.
Overwork, poor health, exhaustion, frustration, tears. This time it was my minister who spoke very kindly and directly to me, and pointed out that although I was present – physically – at church activities, I wasn’t truly present. He was concerned for me that work was taking over, that all my energies were being channelled into that one area.
I was so discouraged I can’t even tell you how much. Partly because I hadn’t seen this coming, partly because of a whole variety of legitimate, difficult factors in my life that were affecting my thinking, and mostly because I thought, “I’m not passionate about rest again.”
And I despaired of being able to write the book on rest that I wanted to, because I would never truly be at rest.
But this time the turnaround was not quite as drawn out. I didn’t have quite so many things to cancel, and it was easier to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right ones. I didn’t become at rest and at peace in a matter of days, but the process was a far cry from the Italy recuperation phase.
This process will happen over and over in my life, and in yours.
Just because you have one turning point doesn’t mean you won’t have another one. And another. And another of a different kind.
Rest that we don’t understand
We’re overworked, exhausted, worn out, weary, struggling, tired – and at times there seems to be no hope in sight. Although we want to want rest, we are ill-equipped to practice it, or we don’t practice it, or we don’t even understand how it is possible.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the deepest desires, and needs, of our lives.
I’m also accepting that I’ll need multiple turning points, and will continue to strive for rest (and, some days, collapse in exhaustion). But I’ll still press on.
Because rest goes hand-in-hand with hope.
Rest takes its root in the person of Jesus Christ, who in Himself is hope. It’s not that He brings hope or stirs it up or gives it out like a gift – He, Himself, is hope. Is rest. Is peace.
Without Jesus, you can never experience true rest.
With His help, you can and will have rest in the midst of this turbulent life that is always swirling about you. It is not something to be strived for – but it is, absolutely, something to be passionate about.
But what is rest? And how do you get it?
More to come, my friends.