Rest for your soul?

Yesterday I sat curled up on the sofa, embracing the quiet of the afternoon, the stillness of our house as the boys listened to audio books and watched films. I sat and watched the service from our church back in Brighton. I can’t work out if it’s our old church, the church we used to go to, a current church or what. We have only just landed in this new world and are in transition, I have no idea what to call anything anymore. Anyway, I sat and listened and felt far away and yet near all at the same time. 

Dave was talking (well maybe just throwing out a whole load of ideas to see where they landed) on rest and this pervasive sense of tiredness we all seem to be feeling at the moment. I say ‘all’, I’m sure there are some people out there who are full of life but at this point of the year, a whole 12 months on from when things went really bad in terms of winter lockdowns and coronavirus cases it feels like many of us might be facing the wall of tiredness again or just wading through its constant ache. 

I’ve been thinking about rest since yesterday, and wondering if rest needs to be tailored to the situation we are in. There are times we need rest from every form of activity, where we have hit the limits of all our body and mind. There are times when we need rest as a ceasing moment, where we stop working or doing things to take time away, time out, to change the rhythm of our lives, to catch ourselves again and find the things that give us energy and hope in this world. 

There are other times when rest will look active, alive, running through fields, walking for hours, swimming in the sea, sitting outside with our faces to the sunshine soaking up the vitality we need. There are times when rest will look like creativity, making, doing anything that brings that smile to our faces which says our souls are being satisfied. 

I wonder though in all these circumstances and life situations if there is something deeper going on with rest that takes us to places which sustain us in the dark long tiredness. There is much to be said for altering our life circumstances to cheer us, to leaning into the stuff that gives us life, there is much to be said for seeking the joy, the sustenance found in doing the things we love and being with people who bring us life and who we, in turn, bring life to. But what about the times we can’t change things or when the tiredness just won’t shift? 

I wonder about the reality that the Ones who made us also describe themselves as our rest. We are invited to walk in the ancient ways to find rest for our souls. We are invited to take on a yoke that is not a burden, to learn from Jesus to find rest for our souls. There is something about this way of God which is meant to bring rest to us. 

I wonder what that rest looks like? As I think about that, I wonder what I really need rest from? From trying to figure out life on my own? From trying to be in charge, in control? Maybe this rest on offer is a rest from worry, from fretting about the future, from fear of what people think of me, from the ways I try to protect myself and others from harm?

What is it we are seeking rest from? Tiredness comes from many levels. Tiredness in many forms can come from our bodies, the work we do, the illness we live with, others illnesses we live with meaning we are doing more than we would normally, from lack of sleep, exercise, lack of exercise etc.. Yet much of it comes from the mental loads we carry, the cares of this world, the worries, the fears, the load and weight of knowledge we carry around with us, the weight of the connections we have with people and the burdens we carry with others. 

Some of this tiredness is good to feel but I wonder how much we carry because of the culture around us, the messages we hear, the overwhelm in front of our eyes. I wonder what these ancient paths have to teach us about where rest for our souls comes from and what it looks like? 

Is it found in a simpler way of life, in trust for the things we can’t control? Is it found in the slow and steady pace of knowing we are small and finite creatures who are in the hands of someone bigger than us, more able to sustain us than our own strength? 

Is it found in the call of the One who says our times are in their hands in whose arms we can cast all our cares and burdens? 

Is finding rest for our souls an inner journey as much as an outer one? When thinking about rest are we just changing externals or are there inner thoughts and attitudes to pay attention to which are draining the life out of us?

What does it really mean to stand at the crossroads and ask for the ancient paths and find rest for our souls? 

Nope, no well structured thought out arguments here, just a whole load of questions about rest. 

As I write I’m working myself round to remembering that right now, most of all, I need rest from the desire in me to control outcomes. I am small. I am in the hands and arms of the One who loves me most. I seek strength from their gaze, I seek hope from not being on my own trying to figure this new world out. 

I’m tired from moving, I’m tired from new places and new situations but really my tiredness this morning comes from trying to control our lives and figure it all out on my own. I can’t. 

I ask for the ancient paths of love and grace to walk in and I seek to trust the One who has my times in their hands, and the times of my boys whom I want to make everything better for. I can’t. It is too tiring to try. I can take slow steps forward, love, reassure, name their emotions, hug them through the days and rest in the One who watches over us, keeps us and provides for us. 

I rest my weary soul in the One who loves me most, in the One who will not let us go and find hope in this tiredness. 

Where does your tiredness come from? Is your Maker inviting you to change externals or internals? What do you need rest from? What might give you rest today? 

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