When I hear the word “rest,” I immediately picture myself lying on the couch in my stretchy pants with a good book in one hand and a cup of warm coffee in the other. Usually, there’s chocolate involved. There’s always a blanket involved. If I had a dog, he would be in the picture too. I associate these many comforts with rest.
This past weekend was one of rest, but it wasn’t a weekend of stretchy pants and chocolate– at least, not entirely. It was a weekend of conversation, laughter, and adventure, but it was restful.
A group of close college friends and I had planned this weekend getaway, hoping for a chance to recharge and to catch up on each other’s lives. We shared news from our families, struggles from recent months, amusing YouTube videos, and goals for the coming year. We were all facing different circumstances, but we were able to lend encouragement where it was needed.
There is a certain kind of rest to be found in the support of those closest to you. Often times, being engaged and present in our friendships can feel like a form of rest because it allows for vulnerability, and vulnerability is refreshing. When I’m surrounded by people who truly know me, I am at ease. I am experiencing rest.
After this weekend, I felt challenged to consider the true meaning of rest. The idea of Sabbath in the Bible is helpful in shaping our understanding of it. Jesus rebuked the Jews who accused Him of sinning when He performed healings on the Sabbath. There is error in the notion of Sabbath rest as a passive disengaging from the surrounding world. Rest is active and intentional– it allows us to briefly step away from our daily grind, but in doing so, it sheds light on our priorities and can lead us to reevaluate them. At first, the idea of rest as being active may seem contradictory, but think about it: are there any instances in the Bible when rest is defined as total removal from absolutely everything? Even the act of meditation is one of attentiveness.
Since we’re on the topic of rest, think about your television set. Watching television is something that many people associate with rest, right? This might feel a little off topic, but stay with me for a minute.
The television at my house has way too many channels; finding the one I’m actually looking for is close to impossible. More often than not, I find myself clicking aimlessly through the in-between channels, holding firmly to the logic that the one I’m looking for is bound to pop up sooner or later. Wading through the noisy static of each passing channel, I’m relieved when I finally land on one that my eyes can rest on and my mind can engage with.
I think this is a representation of how we are meant to experience rest. While going about our daily tasks and running from place to place, we are surrounded by noise. As we shuffle through the static of the many channels of life, it’s easy to shift onto autopilot, impatiently anticipating whatever upcoming weekend plans are on the calendar. Some times, our restful weekend plans really do consist of sitting on the couch with a good book and a cup of coffee; more often than not though, weekends are spent doing things that we enjoy, spending time with people we don’t see during the week and engaging in activities that refresh us—at least, that’s the dream.
When we finally hit that clear channel on the television, we are not just left with a blank, noiseless screen that demands nothing of us. Rather, we are left with a lucid and intentionally crafted moving image that we are meant to actively engage with. Ideally, we would walk away from whatever show we were watching with a new thought to consider— possibly a new perspective on an issue. Rest is hitting that clear channel and participating in the picture it presents – it’s not just watching it move.
Last weekend, we rested. We laughed, we prayed, we talked, we swam. We cooked, we ate, we explored, we wondered. We floated along the lazy river, wanting to play “bumper cars” with tired parents who just weren’t into it. We quipped about details of the weekend that reminded us that we still haven’t totally mastered this adulthood thing. We explored what looked like a post-apocalyptic ghost town in the middle of the desert. We bought way too much ice cream and left it for whoever stays in our room next. We did all of these things and called them rest, and the word felt fitting because it was.