Rest is Needed

One of the hardest things about being a parent is not knowing what your kid needs. Deciphering a baby’s cry to determine if she is hungry, dirty, tired, scared, teething, etc., isn’t always easy. But there’s another hard part of being a parent, and that is knowing what she needs and watching her refuse it. Whether it’s medicine for an ear infection, a vegetable to stay healthy, a diaper change, or sleep. We can’t make them do the thing their body most wants to do.

That’s where I’m at tonight. Watching my almost-toddler rub her eyes and cry as she sits in her bed, at midnight, refusing to lay down. She’s not hungry. She’s not wet. She’s just tired. And all she needs to do is lay down, close her eyes, and drift off to sleep as she has done every day for her entire life (most days more than once). But she just won’t do it, and I don’t know why.

At one point, I hoped she would fall asleep on my chest. I held her close and she screamed loudly, waking my husband, and pushed herself up. It was at that moment that I understood what God must sometimes feel watching us fight a needed rest.

“Come to me, child. Rest in my presence. Take a break from the things you really don’t need to be doing right now, and rest. All those other things can wait.”

My baby is angry at her tiredness. She wants it to go away and leave her alone, but she won’t concede that she is designed to need rest.

Aren’t we guilty of the same thing? It may not be sleep that we refuse outright (though many of us are functioning on insufficient sleep and, perhaps, excessive caffeine). But we refuse a spiritual rest. We are exhausted mentally and emotionally,¬†but instead of spending time in God’s presence, we are caught up in trying to press through the exhaustion hoping it will go away but ultimately accepting it as a fact of life.

Precious friend, you need to rest. You need to regularly rest. Take time out of the busy day. Take your mind off of laundry and grocery lists and scheduling piano lessons and sit in God’s presence. Like the babe who finally falls asleep (she will… she will… she will…), you’ll be so glad you did. Don’t be hard on yourself. The need for rest is not a sign of weakness or substandard human-ness. It is a reminder that God loves you and He wants to spend time with you. And even God rested on the seventh day.

Overwhelmed? I was, too.

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
Proverbs 14:4, NLT

Life would be so much easier if we didn’t need to interact with other people, wouldn’t it? We wouldn’t need a closet full of clothes to impress strangers, we wouldn’t need a kitchen full of dishes to feed little humans. We’d be fine in a studio apartment with a library card and a couple of takeout menus. Three outfits in the closet, the other three at the cleaners, and then switch.

Life would be simple.

Life would be clean.

Life would be empty.

But then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum, where most of us sit. Life is full. Life is complicated. Life is messy. I won’t bore you with the details of how I’ve maxed out the full, complicated, messy part. I’ll let your imagination fill in the details. I’ll let you picture my house looking exactly like yours. Because, let’s be honest, it probably does. (Give yourself some credit. A chaotic home is more normal than you think.)

If you’re anything like me, you’re a little overwhelmed right now:

  • Overwhelmed by laundry
  • Overwhelmed by meal prep and dishes
  • Overwhelmed by unfinished projects
  • Overwhelmed by meeting kids’ needs
  • Overwhelmed by balancing family and friends and marriage and work
  • And maybe even overwhelmed by an unrealized self-hatred.

Okay, now we’ve crossed over from generic to personal. Deeply, vulnerably personal. Let me explain. It was at a women’s conference where the topic was so completely unrelated to the mess that dehumanized me, and yet the message that penetrated was this: In Christ, you are more! You are more than your shortcomings, more than your circumstances, more than your insecurities and inadequacies.

And there, I went from being overwhelmed by my mess to being overwhelmed by my weakness to being overwhelmed by His grace and strength. I recognized and surrendered that I had been cruel to one of God’s deeply loved creation. I¬†apologized to God and asked for His forgiveness and His help. And I committed to putting an end to the demeaning self-talk. When I got home and saw my messy home, I made peace with the fact that this is where we are right now. It didn’t make me less of a person that I had dishes in the sink and laundry in the basket and food on the floor. (Sadly our current situation prevents us from getting a dog.)

That was three weeks ago. It took three weeks of me frequently, then less frequently, saying “No, I’m not going to talk that way to myself because it’s not true,” before I started to relax enough to be at peace with myself in my much-lived-in home.

And now, after three weeks of retraining my brain (and confessing this struggle to loved ones), I am ready to try again to gain control of my home, this time with Holy Spirit control of my mind first. So we’re re-starting the journey to live the way God intended, this time starting with inner peace and letting it overflow into our physical environment.

Now I’ve taken you briefly through the emotional and spiritual journey, it’s time to start the physical journey.