rest: an update


Last January I wrote a little bit about why I picked “rest” as my word for 2014. I wish I could come here and write a post about how now I am peaceful all the time, my anxious tendencies have completely vanished, and I regularly spend hours just being still. I guess I could write that post, but it would be a big fat lie. Because I still sometimes overcommit, I still make a lot of lists, and I still feel almost physically uncomfortable at the thought of sitting through a TV show or car trip without multitasking. In short: I’m still me. (Isn’t it funny how that works? We think that a new year or new job or new relationship will make us different people, but at the end of the day we’re usually still us.)

A couple of months ago I was pretty frustrated. I had thought about rest so much this year, tried to figure out how to structure the patterns of my life to be more peaceful, learned (sort of) what to say no to and what to say yes to, tried to stop comparing myself to more productive people and just do what I’m capable of. But I still felt tired and rushed so many days, the very opposite of the peaceful, calm state I had envisioned when I picked my word.

If this were a different type of blog entry, here would be the part where I tell you about how this awesome time management app solved all my problems or how I realized that I was embroiled in this huge unnecessary commitment that I got out of or how I implemented a new system that revolutionized my life. None of that is true. But I have learned a few things about rest this year. The most important thing I’ve learned is this: real, bone deep rest comes from God, not from bubble baths or afternoons off or leisurely walks with my husband. Those things can be part of what he uses to bring rest to our lives, but if you tend towards the anxious (like me), you know that you can sit in a candle lit bubble bath maniacally planning your weekend to do list, or walk with your husband and think about work the entire time.

So this winter I’ve started asking for rest in the midst of chaos. In the middle of my classroom full of 5th graders. In the line at the post office. When I feel close to breaking. Not fancy, eloquent prayers. Just, “God, I’m really tired and overwhelmed right now. Please help me rest. Please quiet my mind. Please bring me peace.” Sometimes I feel better, calmer. Sometimes in the midst of 10 questions from seven 4th graders I stop and look at the twinkle lights hanging on the ceiling of my classroom and breathe in and out, thankful that I get to do this work, that people trust me with their kids, that my life is never boring. And sometimes I pray the same prayer, but it “doesn’t work.” The post office is closing earlier than I thought and I needed to get this mailed today and I left school early to make it happen but I should have just stayed and now I didn’t get to…blah blah blah. But maybe prayers working are less about concrete answers and more about the posture of our souls, about intimacy with the Father.

I’ve realized that my life probably won’t slow down anytime soon. I thought high school was busy and then I went to college. I thought college was hectic and then I got a job. I thought teaching was crazy and then I got married. I think my life right now is pretty intense but one day we will most likely add a child to this and my brain pretty much can’t even compute that scenario right now. But this truth I’m learning, more than anything else, makes me think that things are going to be alright. I can’t always carve out two hours on a weekday to create and write and spend time with friends. I can’t always maintain a complicated system of planners and apps and reminders to manage my life. I (definitely) can’t hire an administrative assistant. But I can do this, these quiet prayers, please-help-me-I-need-you, a little smoke signal spiraling up to the one who hears & sees & cares & heals. And I think that maybe, just maybe, that’s enough.

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