For many years now, I’ve asked myself the same nine questions as one year turns into the next. You’ve likely seen a similar “end of the year questions” list, and I can’t help but laugh at myself as I reflect on these questions in August as the store aisles fill with back-to-school supplies. The thing is, this year, one question stretched beyond a winter day of reflection and stayed with me through the seasons: What’s one piece of advice you want your future self to carry into the next year?
In years past, I twiddled my thumbs while thinking over the last twelve months. This time, I immediately began writing down my answer:
Rest. Turn everything off and be unreachable. Don’t wait until it’s convenient (that literally never happens) or until your body forces you to stop. Slow down before you break down. You don’t have to hold it all together or do all the things for all the people. You can just . . . be. After two intense years of long work days, to say nothing of a Global Situation and the grief of losing loved ones, you’ve got to pause and catch your breath. Fill up what has been poured out. It’s time to rest.
Honestly, I’m more comfortable running and doing, listening or creating, checking things off a list or showing up for my people. Resting feels unnatural, and even when I slow down for a moment, “I could be doing XYZ right now” begins running through my mind. It takes intentional effort to turn off the internal clock, to quiet the mental checklist, to ignore the “shoulds” and stop, breathe, and simply be.
That moment of reflection on December 29th was a smoke detector going off, a warning that if nothing changed, there would soon be a fire.
I could feel the heat in the dead of winter. I was running on fumes, but there it was, a giant stop sign on the side of the road, a gentle invitation to slow down and accept the daily grace so lovingly offered. I said yes, not knowing I’d spend most of January sick, February-April struggling with chronic insomnia more than ever before, and May-August physically weaker and wearier than ever before. It’s not lost on me that my last (in)courage article talks about a lack of sleep and a deep, decades-long desire for physical rest. And I believe it wasn’t lost on God that December day, that He already knew everything these days would hold.
The smoke detector went off and the siren sounded: Grace, grace, grace. Rest, rest, rest. Trust, trust, trust.
Perhaps, like me, you grew up knowing the Ten Commandments. Did you read or hear the words in Exodus 20 and mentally add “keep the Sabbath” to your to-do list as one more thing you’re responsible for instead of a gift to receive? If so, I have to tell you what I discovered when I began studying this commandment, knowing it was past time to take rest as seriously as God does.
The first word of the commandment isn’t keep — it’s remember. Remember to rest. Remember that the weight of the world is in God’s hands, not on our shoulders. Remember to slow down. Remember to stop. In other words, don’t forget to remember. It’s as if God knew we’d need a reminder to slow down, that if left to our own devices, our own timetables, we’d fill our calendars and keep our hands busy until we hit a wall. And because they did and we still do, He says it in the Old Testament and in the New and in the Spirit speaking gently within us today.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says in Matthew 11, “and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
It was never “come to Me, all you who have it together.” It isn’t “come to Me after you’ve done XYZ and achieved 123.” It’s simply — come. Weak, weary, frustrated, confused, angry, exhausted, grieving, doubting. Every bit of you is welcome. Just come to Me, come home, and lay your burdens down.
Like manna arriving each morning for the Israelites who first heard “remember the Sabbath” while in the wilderness, the invitation arrives for us each day. I picture it like a note, folded and passed along, with boxes to check: Will you? Yes, no, maybe.
There will always be more to do, and certainly there are seasons in which we’re to run hard. But rest isn’t a sign that you’re weak; it’s trusting that the tending of your soul matters more than the completing of a task. Rest isn’t a sign that you’ve given up; rest is accepting the gift that has already been given. Rest is an active decision, an intentional choice to slow down and say that although it might feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you’re choosing to trust that it’s truly in God’s hands.
“Come to Me,” He says.
I’m coming. God, don’t let me forget to remember.