Summer break is upon us: for some of us it’s underway, for some of our kiddos we are in the final hours of throwing together last minute projects, remembering things like field day the day of the actual field day while we throw beach towels and water bottles at our kids as they run out the front door in a frenzy, and beyond.
We’ve also just come off a long weekend where we promote taking a break from the world and connecting, preparing for summer that’s just around the corner.
But… how do we actually rest?
I’m not talking about stepping away from the world and secluding ourselves somewhere without distractions (though there’s a time and place for this), I’m talking about actual, soul-quieting, recharging rest.
If you’re like me, I’m guessing you’re not all that great at it.
I’m so excited to have my kids home for the summer. I’m thrilled to step away from chasing down the bus every morning (for those wondering, there have been some very near misses in these last few weeks), to stop worrying about homework, and to allow for play.
But at the same time, I’m dreading the extra noise, the constant nagging to clean up between activities, and the worrying about where they are as they’re out exploring the neighborhood with their neighborhood crew (who we love to death).
Yes: there will be more time at the pool. There will be times around the new fire pit. We will have deep laughs and build forever memories. We’ll do some traveling as a family and as friends… but… will we actually rest?
Unless We’re Intentional About it – and Maybe Not the Way You’re Thinking – the Answer is No.
And here’s why.
You see: even when seasons change and responsibilities take a back seat for a bit, I still need to control the calendar.
I need to know who is where and when (and what) they’ve eaten last – goodness help us if they’ve been subsisting on Pringles and orange soda alone as they soak up summer freedom!
I need to track our calendar.
I need my house to be clean before friends stop by – as spontaneous as I want that to be.
I need to have a plan for my rest time.
Only really, I don’t need any of those things at all.
In fact, for soul-quieting, abiding rest, all I really need is to hand it all over to the keeper of my heart, the God of the universe, and let him work it out.
What I perceive as “needs” in order to “achieve” rest, are just new ways to take control of a life I’m not actually supposed to be in control of at all.
“Pump the brakes,” you might be thinking. Sure. I cannot throw all caution to the wind. As a parent, I need to look after the safety of my children and keep tabs on them.
Of course. This is absolutely true.
But, them having fewer green snacks than I’d like isn’t going to wreck their entire future (moderation folks, I promise, I’m preaching moderation here, not making any kind of statement).
But the soul-quieting rest that my body and heart craves is just as applicable to them. And when I’m hovering over them, and my husband, and my co-workers, and my home visitors, I’m not really making that possible for any of us.
When Scripture Speaks to Us
In the mornings before school, we’ve been going through the book of Matthew as a family. We read a bit, discuss what we’ve read, and have a time of prayer before making our frantic bus chase.
This morning, we spent some time in chapter 10. While this chapter also talks about following Jesus with our whole hearts despite what we might face in terms of persecution, it also jumps into fear. Starting in verse 29, it reads:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.”
While this specific fear may be relating to the great costs of following Jesus that he knew his followers would face in the near and very distant future, it also spoke to my heart about another fear, one that I hold near and dear to my heart: the fear of not being in control.
Our world has a term for people like me: “neat freak.”
And, it’s true. I like things to be in their spaces. My heart literally races when our home is cluttered. I can’t focus if I know dishes from breakfast are still out before lunch.
So neat freak? Sure. But, control freak? Also true. And, this may have even bigger, more negative implications.
When I’m in Control, God’s Not
I mean, of course he is still in control: he’s got the ultimate plan for this whole universe in mind and has from the very beginning.
But, when I feel a deep need to control every piece of my surroundings, can I also truly be resting in his goodness, and his plan for my life? Can I really be inviting him to take over each minute of my day? Can I truly find rest?
And I bet you’ve found yourself there too.
We can plan all the vacations, and activities, and “restful” breaks that we want, but, if we’re not stepping back from the things we’ve convinced ourselves that we “need,” and handing them to the Lord, we’re just going to keep chasing down things that aren’t building us – or our families – up at all for eternity.
We’ll continually fall short of our own expectations instead of allowing God’s grace and goodness to penetrate every space of our hearts.
We’ll continue to feel tired and “less-than.”
We’ll never measure up.
There’s a Better Way
There’s a better way, and the greatest thing is that we don’t have to search the internet archives or self-help blogs to find it, we simply need to look up, throw our hands up to our father – the one who created us with his specific purpose in mind – and ask him to step into the places that we feel the need to exert control.
Matthew 11 (ironically – or maybe not at all – the chapter we’ll be reading with our kids tomorrow), says, in verse 28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
It doesn’t say “block out times to relax.” Or, “Just make sure your house is spotless and then you’ll be able to relax.”
No. It says that if we come to God, if we throw our hands up to him and tell him that we need him for it all, that he’ll give our hearts the rest they actually crave… something the world – even the most beautiful resorts and spas or landscapes – cannot and will not ever be able to promise.
What a gift! Can we lean into it? Can we give up our control to find rest?
I feel this tension with observing Shabbat. I’m someone who likes to fill my schedule with many activities during the day and sometimes, the directive to rest on Shabbat, especially during the pandemic when in-person services, speakers, large Shabbat meals, etc. is almost painfully boring at times. “Rest” sounds like it should be easy, but it isn’t necessarily
I think the comparison is so valid… especially for us planners. I find myself needing to plan my rest, and while it doesn’t necessarily pertain to Shabbat in our family, I have a hard time practicing the rest that we’re called to abide in!!