I stare at the words I’ve read and reread for the last few hours, but my brain refuses to comprehend what it needs to do. Forcing myself to sit at my desk hasn’t helped move the work along, but my stubbornness keeps me seated. I watch the cursor blink in the same spot, telling me I’m wasting my time, but how do I tap into my creative side, how do I generate work, when I feel completely poured out — empty?
I hear the kids call for me from the backyard to watch them do somersaults in the pool for the tenth time in the last half hour. I want to relish these last days of summer with them, but I’m pulled by the stern demands of deadlines. I tell them I’ll be there in a second, but we all know a second can stretch into eternity with nothing to come of it.
I click through the many other tabs open on my computer to find something that will require minimal thinking, but every task and project are at the point where they need my focused attention. I close my eyes, close the laptop, take some deep breaths, and surrender.
I lean back in my chair, resigned and frustrated at my inability to push through, but in that quiet moment by myself, I sense a different pull in my heart — an urgent invitation to rest. It doesn’t demand from me as the deadlines do, but it does warn me that if I don’t take a break, I will break eventually.
I reflect back on the last six months and notice how much I’ve needed to care for everyone around me. Rest seemed like a luxury I couldn’t afford to have for myself, and I started to believe that the mark of a generous, loving person was to give until I had nothing left. It’s the unhealthy belief that I had grown up with — that being like Jesus means martyring ourselves at the altar of service to others, that our holiness isn’t founded on Christ’s righteousness but on the scars we bear, on how far our arms have been stretched for the sake of others.
But we are not robots created for incessant work nor are we the saviors of the world. And rest is essential.
Rest is resistance to a do-it-all culture that tells us to prove our worth. When our value is measured by what we can offer, our humanity is hollowed up and thrown away. It’s no wonder we can so self-righteously determine a person’s destiny by their usefulness, instead of seeing them as beloved, cherished human beings just as they are — just as we are.
We rest to resist. We rest so we can keep going. We rest because we have limits and because we can trust God with all that needs to get done.
Adrenalin had concealed the full weight of what I had been carrying, and now, as I sit still at my desk, I can feel it all. My body and mind and soul are weary. I am spent. I have come to the end of my strength to carry on.
The lie that I’m only as valuable as what I produce still lures me to open my laptop and keep pushing through, but I decide to heed the warning to rest. I walk away from my desk, get into my swimsuit, and to the gleeful delight of my kids, jump into the pool.
I witness their somersaults underwater and swim with them from one end to the other. I marvel at how much they’ve grown and how much faster they can swim. This has been a hard year, and there is so much we won’t get back again when it’s over — including this moment of pure fun.
I float on my back and watch the tops of the trees sway in the wind. The sun peeks through the branches, monarch butterflies flit gracefully across our yard, and I rest, embraced by the warmth of the day and held by the waters below.