I’ve been pondering lately on the idea of rest. To give you a background, I recently became a mom for the first time to a beautiful little girl. She is now 3 months old and while I absolutely love being a mother, resting does not come easy, that's why I decided that in my next blog I would talk about rest.
A business student would tell you that in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, rest is at the very bottom of the pyramid along with food and water. That means that according to Maslow, in order to keep an employee in a job, rest is equally as important as food water and shelter. In today’s age though, with homes becoming workplaces and zoom becoming a need more than our source of socialising, rest is the first thing to go out of the window. Rest is compromised by the demands of work, the lack of privacy and the need to live a 'survival of the fittest' kind of lifestyle, leaving us tired, weary and worn out without the option of a break or a time out! Strange how something that is as important as food, water and shelter could be let go of so easily. Today more then ever we need to talk about rest.
As a first-time mum, it really left me wondering, in this generation are we to accept that this is the new norm? Are we to live a life of constant exhaustion, and is this what I want to impart to my child and see her grow to live by these same values? Is the idea of separation of work and home now too idealistic and are we really called to live a life where we cannot just wind down? I don’t think so! I’d like to put before you what I’ve discovered over the past months and the 3 key ways I feel our rest is being attacked (though full disclaimer, I’m still in the discovery process and I’m still learning to embrace this concept).
The survival of the fittest/ performance mindset
In this day and age, people are being retrenched left, right and centre while the cost to live a fairly decent life is going up faster than water can fall from a tap. The common response to this is to work harder and oftentimes attempt to perform out of fear. There is a need to climb the ladder, earn better, remain in a job and so on. As a result, we keep working till we’ve got no juice left in us and compromising on the need for rest. While this may not be true for everybody, it certainly is the case for some. The struggle with this mindset is that we then draw security from our performance, our abilities and quite simply our humanness. The downfall of this is, this is not sustainable, to work and perform at the same pace without adequate rest is simply not human and in the end we will slow down until we’ve had the ability to rest.
The alternative to this is possibly drawing security from the one who has given you life and who holds the universe in his hands. While this doesn’t mean that we do not work and give our best, nor give us the freedom to sit idly by, it does mean that we can rest in the assurance that our needs, our security and our lives are in the palm of his hands. We have absolute favour with Him, and he will take care of our needs. Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Matt 6:31-32
High Standards and Guilt
There was this one day about a week ago, it was mid-afternoon, and my baby was having one of those magical days where she actually had a good long nap. I lay down and decided to watch and episode of Netflix’s Emily in Paris (yes, I caved, I had to see what the hype was about). Before long I had watched 3 episodes straight and then my daughter decided to wake just as the 3rd episode was finishing (perfect timing, right?). I remember so vividly walking over to her crib to pick her up and this flood of guilt rushing in as if a dam had just been opened. I hadn’t read my Bible that day, there was a massive pile of laundry to be folded, dinner to be made, tidying up to be done, calls and messages to respond to, writing to be done and a million other things. Shamefully I asked my husband if we could just order food that day, and I remember thinking how do I justify being at home while he is away working and not accomplishing anything. Here I am wasting away my time on a series that has absolutely no benefit to my life or my family and I felt so horribly guilty. However, strangely enough, it did have a benefit to my life and my family. By allowing myself to lie down and watch something that did not require brain power or for me to think, it allowed me to wind down and just relax – it kept me sane!
I realised that day that I don’t have to feel guilty for taking time out for myself once in a way. Nine times out of 10 I’ve put myself on the back bench for work, or my family, or friends or whatever, but once in a while, I get to just take care of myself and that isn’t wrong. Even while I was still single, I remember pushing and pushing myself so hard that when I took time out for myself, I felt just wrong. The issue is that the standards I’d set for myself were way higher than they needed to be. I expect perfection from myself and that isn’t a humane standard to live by. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be burdened or weighed down. In fact, Matthew 11:29-30 says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. The Greek word for “yoke” in this context is ‘zygos’ which means “to load down with obligations.” So, when I feel loaded, it’s time for me to really ask the questions: “Is how I am living the way God would have me live?” “Are my standards for myself higher than they need to be?” “What can I be casting on God that I am still carrying around on my own shoulders?” “Am I being unnecessarily hard on myself?” God wants and desires that I take care of myself as much as I take care of the responsibilities he has given to me.
Lastly, in my journey of pondering on this topic, I realised rest is not always synonymous with sleep. There are days I have slept for hours and woken up still exhausted. Rest is far more than sleep. Rest is actually being childishly dependent on God for sustenance, provision, health, companionship, and fundamentally trusting that he’s got me and He knows my needs and my future, even if I don't. I realised that it is absolutely impossible for me to achieve a sense of rest without turning to him. It is possible to turn to him for rest even when daily quiet time hasn’t happened because he isn’t dependent on us to do so. It simply means talking to him and running to him to help us get through the day and in doing so, we will find our sustenance. Rest comes from him and him alone and without that I’m just like those wound up toys running around aimlessly. It’s right there in scripture when it says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28. Other parts say It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2.
Being a mother of a new-born, in a pandemic is not the ideal scenario for sleep. I have however experienced the restful sustenance of God. With minimal sleep, I am able to be wholeheartedly present for my family and carry out my responsibilities simply because my source of strength, energy and rest comes from the same one who has given me life and breath in my lungs.
As mentioned, I’m still on the journey of discovery, but I’ve come to realize, rest is non-negotiable and no job, nor duties shall come before that.
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