The Importance of Rest
May 2012. The sun is beating down on my head in the gardens of Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire. I crawl under the shade of a tree and try to get my tired mind to be ‘creative’. I’ve made a conscious effort to move away from my desk, but now all I want to do is snooze. I have come to Mottisfont Abbey as Brian Draper (Less is More) recently brought me here as part of a guided retreat, where he’d both encouraged me to consider the need to constantly return to “the source”, and to sit still and take on board the W.H.Davies poem: “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”.
I did a search on Bible Gateway for the word “rest”, and in the New Living Translation it returned 508 entries, including being at the root of words ‘restoration’ and ‘restriction’. One that resounded for me was:
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. (Psalm 127:2)
Taking time to rest and reflect is a real challenge for me, and as highlighted by Rev Kate Bruce in a recent Big Bible post, it’s not down to the technology that so many associate with me. I find great value in conversations, collaboration and research online. Before computers, I used to spend hours writing letters, and getting lost in other people’s worlds in books, rather than sitting, staring, and recouping.
As an Oak Hall tour leader, I remember leading Morning Prayer on the theme of rest. Doctors have said that if we don’t rest enough, God has designed our bodies to enforce that rest. God set the example:
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)
In the Second World War, the government attempted to implement 8-day working weeks in attempts to increase productivity, but found that both the amount produced, and the quality, decreased. Leviticus is particular emphatic about this, with many references to the need to allow land to lie fallow every 7 years.
As I lay there, my body tired after a week of illness, I absorbed the sound of the wind, ‘smelt’ the sun, and watched a small bird hopping around the lawn. I was so still it came almost within touching distance of me –if I had chased after it would have run away. It reminded me of the time I had been to Doubtful Sound in New Zealand, where the boat stopped on a mirror lake, all noise stopped, and the profound silence gave way to the sounds of nature, as we allowed all our senses to work. In a similar way a series of ideas that had been chasing around the edges of my thinking were coming towards me.
The deadlines still continue to roll but this verse continues to encourage me:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matt 11:28)
What ways do you find to take ‘time out’?
What verses encourage you when life is tough?