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Soul care

What is life without hope?

It is despair. It is defeat. It is untethered, aimless, sorrowful.

Hope is our anchor. It keeps us rooted in believing that there is value in life. And weariness? Weariness is the near occasion of despair; it’s the someone or something that wears us down, rubs us threadbare, leaves us vulnerable to hopelessness.

It is a weary world. Idealism and optimism give way to the recognition that life isn’t quite as you had expected it would be. The check is late, and the bill is due. The job was promised, and then it was canceled. The lab finally called, and the results are not good. You are worn out and weary. Nearly hopeless.

The remedy is in the rest.

These days, we look for rest in the things so often called self-care: an indulgence in comfort or luxury that is good in the moment but doesn’t offer truly sustainable fulfillment or renewal. True self-care happens only when care for our souls at the same time as we comfort our bodies. A pedicure is good in the moment, and might even bring a smile for days to come, every time our eyes are downcast, but it won’t really restore us.

Rest will. True rest happens always and only in Jesus.

In Exodus 16, God gives the Israelites a double portion of manna — enough to feed them today and allow them to rest in knowing that tomorrow would have its bread as well. He gave them nourishment in the moment and hope for the future. We can’t really rest without that hope. If our future is anxious, if we are restlessly searching and worrying, there is no peaceful rest. Self-care in its purest form, is procuring the manna your soul needs to have hope for tomorrow.

When the most challenging of my nine children was a baby, I would fall into bed at night (knowing it was a matter of minutes before he’d awaken again) and wonder how I’d have the physical strength to carry that very large infant all day the following day. I was so tired that I rarely even considered the spiritual strength I needed. I just clung to Matthew 11:28-30.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I was tired and maybe a little afraid of mounting responsibilities. I wanted the deep soul rest. There was no budget for pedicures. There was never any thought of girls’ night out or Saturday shopping sprees. Instead, I was reduced to the essentials. What did I need, body and soul, to move past survival mode and to thrive?

Jesus’ promise sounds so simple. Just follow Him and your soul will rest. But then consider the part where the disciples dropped everything to follow Him. Rest for your soul looks like laying down your life and dying for Christ.

His promise of rest isn’t a break from burdens of daily living. It’s a shift in our interior lives that allows us to fully inhale peace no matter how burdensome our worldly circumstances. His rest is steady, even when the world around us is in turmoil.

You can’t get it in a pretty bottle named “Sunset Surrender” lined up with all the other pretty bottles at the day spa. You get it when you whisper tired into the night, “I surrender. My trust is in you. My hope is in you.”

And then you sleep, because truly, sleep is both the highest form of self-care and the most earnest act of hope-imbued faith.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018