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Rethinking rest

First slide

What if we have it all backward? What if rest isn’t so much about what we do when we sink into bed exhausted at the end of a busy day as it is about a quiet moment in the hush of the morning? Often, we persuade ourselves that we are tired and we aren’t resting well because we’re so busy serving — working for our families, caring for our children, tending our gardens, keeping our homes. In truth, we are tired because we forget we are to work as unto the Lord, and instead, we work as if we think we’re the Lord.

We ignore the value of rest because we think we are the ones who keep the world spinning. We think we can’t rest, because if we do, the world (or at least the corner of it under our care) will fall apart. We’re tired. The whole country is tired. The whole world is tired. Let’s flip it on its end. Let’s stop thinking of rest as the rare reward at the end of a long day, and let’s think about it as the thing we do first. Think of rest in terms of surrender. Rest in Christ at the beginning of the day instead of crashing into exhaustion at the end of the day.

Relinquish the illusion that you are powerful to the reality that it is God who is truly powerful. So often, we work ourselves to the point of exhaustion because we are afraid. We might not recognize it in the moment, but we’re scared that if we stop striving, we and the people we love will stop thriving. But really? God loves them more than we do. If we surrender them to God, if we ask his help, if we consecrate the entire day to him, we don’t have to be afraid. Surrender recognizes that we do nothing well under our own power. Everything good that we do or say or accomplish, we do under his strength and by his grace. There is no other way.

When we surrender the day to God before it’s even begun, we can meet fear and stare it down. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to finish everything on the list. We don’t have to run ourselves ragged. The enemy keeps telling us we can be omnipotent as he’s urging us to run harder and faster. Rest comes when we recognize that we cannot. We’re not all-powerful. We won’t be perfect. The perfectionism that is the precursor to exhaustion is striving to be without fault in our own eyes and in the eyes of other people because we need to feel secure. It’s trying to control our children’s lives so that only good and nothing bad will happen (as if we could). It’s trying to maintain perfect order because we fear what will happen if we allow for human weakness. And it’s exhausting.

Perfectionism is the enemy of surrender. Perfect fear and the fear of being imperfect drive out love. Perfect fear depletes, frustrates, depresses and suffocates a life of grace. It is grace we want to live, not perfection.

It is surrender we need, not power.

There is true rest in the surrender.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Connecticut. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

@elizabethfoss