See that photo up above, in the header? That’s where I am, right now, as you’re reading these words. It’s a retreat center called Laity Lodge in the middle of the Texas Hill Country, along the Frio River, and it’s quite possibly my favorite place on earth.
There are many reasons for my deep and abiding love for Laity, but here’s one reason. The most precious nugget of wisdom I’ve gained there can be summed up in four words: rest is a good thing.
It is a beautiful thing.
It is even a necessary thing, if we want to grow and flourish and thrive in this life.
Rest and work are part of life’s rhythms, reflected in our universe through the natural order of things: fields that lie fallow after an intense season of harvest; ground buried deep in winter snows, preparing to spring again with new life.
For those who observe a Judeo-Christian tradition, we even see a pattern of rest that follows work in the Creation story. Rest is good.
This begs the question: If we know rest is good, why don’t we do it?
Last Sunday at my church, our pastor talked about the sabbatical he and his family will soon begin. He shared this excerpt from a French poet, Charles Péguy, writing on sleep:
And yet they tell me
There are men who don’t sleep.
I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.
Sleep is the friend of man.
Sleep is the friend of God.
Sleep may be my most beautiful creation.
And I too rested on the seventh day.
…Yes, they tell me there are men
Who work well and who sleep poorly.
Who don’t sleep. What a lack of confidence in me…
As a child lays innocently in his mother’s arms, thus they do not lay.
Innocently in the arms of my Providence.
They have the courage to work. They don’t have the courage to do nothing.
They possess the virtue of work. They don’t possess the virtue of doing nothing.
Of relaxing. Of resting. Of sleeping.
Unhappy people, they don’t know what’s good.
We are a busy culture. We prize busyness like a badge of honor.
There are so many reasons we don’t rest: we think we don’t have time, we think we have to keep up with all of our roles at all times, we fear falling behind or being passed over, we can’t say no.
Saying no to busy, to crazy schedules and an overcommitted life is hard. It’s counter-cultural.
In my family, we might do alright for awhile when we have hard-and-fast boundaries in place, but when we loosen the reins and let events and obligations creep in on our time, we find ourselves “suddenly” overwhelmed.
We have to go back to the beginning again, and clear space in both our schedules and our minds and hearts.
Saying yes to rest means we have to say no to other things—even other good things. But that’s okay.
We’re not made for constant work and busyness without rest. We’re made to flourish and thrive in a pattern of work and rest, work and rest.
p.s. Say no to yourself.