like a brick
on foam
squeezing out air,
leaving me compacted,
flat out dense.

Sleep and love, 
are nectar
and nutrients
(eat what fits):
breathe in air,

In time
I will stretch
and power up
for life as usual.

Once I get to the beach, or to another quiet spot, I have to quiet my roiling thoughts and pumping adrenaline and give myself permission to just rest. “You don’t have to feel guilty,” I tell myself. “You need this. God told us to rest. Just relax!”

I’ll bet you’ve been there too, so consumed with daily activities, obligations, interactions that you just need to find rest, whether it’s a vacation or just a quiet spot in the house. Our Lord made us and knew that we would need that. It’s one reason why he ordained “sabbath,” one day out of seven to change the rhythm to a quieter pace. We do need to be free from ordinary distractions and turn our hearts to worship. But we also need to let go of the pressures that drive us, if we can. There are times when that is not possible—urgent needs, illness, calamity. But rest is precious.

The problem with our understanding of “sabbath” is that it has become either legalistic or meaningless. When I was growing up, many of our family’s friends held tightly to regulations that they felt would maintain a restful day: no swimming, no sports, no outings. It made Sunday feel like a long drawn-out day that had to be spent at church and at home. I personally love a day with time at home—it restores energy to the introvert side of me. But I also love it when that day includes a hike by a river or in the woods, or (yes!) swimming in a warm pool. All of those things open up room for contemplation or relaxation, another kind of rest than sitting in a chair.

When involved in full-time ministry, Sunday may not be a restful day. We experienced that as missionaries: the long trip on rugged roads to the village church, time greeting everyone, home to grab a meal and rest (when there was not a longer celebration programmed at church, like a baptism, or evangelistic event). And then there was the two-hour meeting in our back yard with the Nyarafolo group for singing, prayer and Nyarafolo devotions together. We loved it all. But by the time supper was over, bedtime sounded so inviting! And then there were often visitors at the door . . .

 Many pastors and lay workers here in America meet the same challenge. That’s why Monday often becomes their day off. The trick is then to spend it in such a way that it brings restoration. And rest. Whatever that means for each person and personality type.

What is essential is to listen to the Lord’s promptings to make space for rest, not to be addicted to the compulsions of productivity. Then we have to let go of the “tyranny of the urgent. God’s sabbath reality calls us to trust that the Creator can manage all that concerns us in this world as we settle into his rest.”[1]

When Sunday is a day for you to invest your gifts and calling, not one for personal rest, find a way to compensate. Even the gift of an evening quietly spent with your spouse or children, or a close friend, can bring that restoration. So can a quiet retreat. That was, for me back in Ferkessédougou, the three-hour protected space in the “sacred grove” in my yard, where I could just breathe and work on listening to my Lord while enjoying nature. Here in Detroit I am learning how to find those spaces in certain early mornings in my third-floor “skyhouse,” in the quiet of pre-dawn birdsong and reflection.

Vacations and retreats count too, if they include rest—not just a long list of activities. We need time to breathe, both physically and spiritually. Play can contribute to that, helping us to focus on other people and let go of the to-do list. Most of all, each of us needs to recognize what distracts us from resting, and what refreshes us. That way we are strengthened to keep on going, to keep on doing what the Lord has put in front of us.

I used to wonder how on earth my dad ever found rest. Often he was the only doctor, only surgeon, at the mission hospital in Ferkessédougou. Being on call meant he could not always plan his time. What I saw him do—and other missionaries as well—was to treasure the moments when not at work by paying attention to what he loved: birds, tropical plants, and art. He collected them all, with an aviary for birds and a series of gardens (one shaped like a map of Africa) for his plants. Art was collected whenever we were on a trip to another country or a big city in the south. While on one vacation when I was young, he invited along his favorite painter, Samuel Dekesse, formerly from Congo. They spent hours together painting scenes on pieces of canvas while Dad imitated Samuel’s brush strokes in his “feather painting.”

We tried to have game nights with friends as well. An evening spent laughing together, joking, made a huge difference as we no longer concentrated on tragedies or challenges all around. That is something we still do in retirement, inviting family or friends over to play some favorite games.

 Practicing “rest” is not about being lazy or apathetic. It is about being active in whatever way is possible given one’s time of life, physical condition and work, but learning to devote time to rest that promotes healing. A sabbath rest includes time set aside for worship, a focus on God:

“‘Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest,2 a holy assembly. You must not do any work; it is a Sabbath to the LORD in all the places where you live. (Lev. 23:3 NET)

Rest from pressure to always perform well or from anxiety about the future also comes in quietness, time apart:

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. (Ps. 62:1 NIV)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Ps. 62:5 NIV)

And when we are linked to Jesus, “pulling the plow” with him, his gentleness will also provide our souls with rest:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matt. 11:29 NIV)

And our Shepherd even inserts rest into our long journeys:

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters (Ps. 23:1 NIV)

The daily schedule of work is good. But our Lord knows that we need rest for heart and soul, and body as well. That is why he made the earth turn, so that night would come and cut the rhythm of daytime activities. He gave sabbath for rest that would concentrate on relationship with him, which is of the most importance. Then, throughout the other days of the week, it is profitable to find a way to carve out time for being open to what the Lord wants to say to us. Either way, rest provides space for certain kinds of spiritual formation as well as for the restoration we need.

Physically, we also need rest in order to stay well and have that ongoing productivity that matters so much to us.  Health for our bodies, health for our souls—rest contributes to both. As John said to Gaius:

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3 Jn. 1:2 NIV)

Let me close by sharing a list I wrote to remind myself to rest in a way that opens me up to things beyond the normal :

Relax     Exhale    Silent   Thinking

Remove   Every   Stormy   Tension

Review   Each   Stretching   Test

Remember   Eternal   Significant   Truths

[1] Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2005),  42.

Published by Linnea Boese

After spending most of my life in Africa, as the child of missionaries then in missions with my husband, I am now retired and free to use my time to write! I am working on publishing poetry and on writing an autobiography. There have been many adventures, challenges and wonderful blessings along the way -- lots to share!

One thought on “Exhausted

  1. No text came through. I keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Love, Donna ________________________________


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