“Prison,” she said after sharing with me how desperately tired she was, “is starting to sound really good.”
She wasn’t in danger of being convicted of anything, unless exhaustion is considered a crime. But she was so tired that even the idea of prison didn’t repel her if it meant she could be on a mattress and read a book alone.
Seems to me there are easier ways to get time alone than prison (Maybe a hotel? A lock on the bedroom door? Something that doesn’t involve bars?) but I knew what she meant. We laughed, shook our heads at ourselves, promised to never reveal those words to anyone because prison.
When desert islands, hospitals, sinus infections, broken legs, and jail start to sound like a vacation, you know you need to take a rest on purpose.
When you believe you would be too behind if you took some time off or you imagine all those other productive people out there shipping and working and getting things done and it makes you feel frantic, you know you need to take a rest on purpose.
When the work other people do discourages you rather than motivates, if their art furrows your brow and stands heavy on your chest while you breathe shallow and quick because you didn’t think of it first, then you know you need to take a rest on purpose.
When you begin to fill empty hours of weekends and holidays with one more productive idea/chapter/list/email, then you may not know it’s time to take a day off yet, but your spouse does.
And so do your kids.
And maybe so do your arteries.
Saying yes to rest means saying no to good things. But taking regular time off is not a punishment or a dare or a rule. It’s a gift. It’s taking a day to open your hands toward heaven and acknowledging that you don’t make the world go around.
When I am able-bodied, alert, and other-wise healthy, rest doesn’t look like a requirement. It looks like an option. And not a very productive one.
It takes courage to choose rest because you know what you are letting go of, but you do not know what you are stepping into. And so rest can feel like a risk. Fear is a loud and abusive motivator – of being left out or left behind. It sounds ridiculous typing it out like that, but there it is.
I’m inching my way back to internet writing after a seven-week blog break. A few things I noticed in myself about half-way through this blog-writing break:
- the pressure to come back feeling super motivated and creative.
- the desire to have new perspective and ideas.
- weird expectations of my ability to produce once the break was over.
What this told me half-way through was that I wasn’t ready to come back yet because I was still seeing my break as a means to a productive end rather than an end in itself.
Maybe a break means taking time to listen without the pressure to hear something profound; a time to read without the pressure to learn something interesting; a time to receive without the pressure to turn the gift into something more useful.
Just because you take a break from something doesn’t mean you’re resting. My soul was desperate for me to know the difference.
What I need even more than a break is rest – the kind that sticks around even after all the sand and chlorine is washed out of my bathing suit, the kind that softens the shadows of my soul even after I return to the dishes, the kind that comforts and sings in the midst of the same old routines.
We need to find rest for our souls.
The details of soul rest may look different for each of us, but probably includes some combination of silence, solitude, nature, your people, and the willingness to come into the presence of Christ and simply be ourselves.
What does soul rest look like for you?