A few weeks ago I was teaching my 2-year-old daughter on the importance of sleep and rest. As I was reading her a book about rest, I realized how badly I needed this lesson myself.
Recently becoming a mother of two under two, my friends and family (and myself) have given me more than enough preaching on the subject of getting enough sleep at night. The well-known rules include not staying up late, not having caffeine too close to bedtime, nap whenever possible, etc.
However, the aspects and qualities of rest are laid aside and forgotten. I’m not talking about laziness; I’m talking about essential down-time — relaxation — getting away from the craziness of everyday life.
Why is it so hard to find time to relax? The answer: It’s simply not high on our priority list. In fact, I don’t think it’s been on my list at all.
The irony of it is, although my kids and husband are my top priority, they are the very ones that suffer from me not allowing myself to rest. If I haven’t gotten away in a while, I’ll feel like I’m going crazy. I’ll have a short temper and snap at my kids for not having patience, when in reality it’s me that has no patience for them. Or I’ll take everything my husband says personally, and suddenly I’ll lash back at him, making him out to be the bad guy. Or I won’t be able to handle the stressful moments and I’ll just feel like screaming at the top of my lungs.
The saying is true, “Happy wife, happy life,” and therefore making the opposite true, “Crabby wife, crappy life.” I think it’s time to make rest important in my life, even if I must take it by force.
I’ve been reminded recently of what Jesus said about resting. He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
It’s interesting that He didn’t say, “You won’t have to carry any burdens.” He actually wants us to carry burdens. But they’re not the world’s kind of burdens; burdens that weigh us down and crush our body and soul. He wants to replace our earthly burdens with His Heavenly burdens — desire for the lost to come to know Him as we do, hunger for His truth, thirst for His living water (the Holy Spirit), desire for more understanding of His love, freedom to do and not just don’t, freedom to embrace and enjoy the life He’s given to us.
His burden is “easy and light,” and frees us from the cares of this world. I don’t need to focus on how awful the day has been going, how needy the kids have been, or how my husband doesn’t seem to be helping enough. I’m free to think Heavenly thoughts — that I love my family, that I’m thankful to have them in my life, that my husband is always looking for ways to help me and show that he loves me, that my kids bring me so much joy every day, that my family is safe and sound, that I’m so blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, that we’ll all be together forever in a kingdom that will never pass away.
Recently I’ve been reading through the gospels chronologically, and I’ve noticed something new. Jesus went away from the crowds to be alone on a mountaintop several times. He must have known how important it was to get away from it all. What’s more is that He thought it important enough to show the world, through Scripture, that He did it Himself — Jesus, the Son of God. And that He did it more than once.
In fact, God was the very one that established the rule of rest. God Himself rested after creating the world. He even made it a commandment for everyone else to do so every seventh day. He also made it law for the Israelites to rest their land every seventh year and to put to rest (forgive) any debt anyone owed them.
More importantly than resting our bodies, God made it clear through His Word that we need spiritual rest. We don’t need empty, meaningless meditation that leaves a void in us through which darkness can easily abide in. We need God to fulfill us, flow His living water through us, pour out His love into us, and transform us into who He wants us to be. He wants us to come away with Him to know Him better. He wants us to get away whenever we can to the mountaintop to spend time with Him there.
Mountains are very significant in Scripture. Jesus went away to rest on mountains; Peter and John saw Jesus transfigure on a mountain; Elijah heard God’s still, small voice on a mountain; Moses received the Ten Commandments, heard God speak to him from a burning bush, and even saw God pass by when he was on the mountain.
I used to have a literal mountain to go to, since I used to live on one, in Christiana, Jamaica. I had my devotions early in the morning, while the mountain mist still lingered. I loved the fresh mountain air that seemed to seep through my being, renewing my mind and spirit.
The thing is, everyone has to come down from their mountain at some point. I literally had to leave my mountain to come back to the States to go to college. Since then, getting away and finding a good resting place has never been the same. I’ve had to be more creative. In the dorms it would mean taking advantage of unoccupied study or prayer rooms or finding a nice tree to sit under on a warm day. When I lived in an apartment in my last year of college it meant sitting out on the balcony that overlooked the trees. Then after getting married and having a full-time job it meant spending some alone time with God before the sun rose, along with a hot cup of tea.
Now, with two toddlers who wake me up every morning, who don’t always nap at the same time, and who leave me exhausted emotionally and physically by the time they’re in bed for the night, I’ve simply lost the ambition to even try to make time for rest. I hardly know what it’s like to have alone time anymore.
However, I am beginning to realize that the lack of rest and getting away has taken a toll on me spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
So I’ve decided to set some rules for myself:
- Say “no” to things/people every now and then. The world won’t fall apart if I do.
- Say “yes” when someone offers help with housework or watching the kids (surprisingly, this is not always easy for me to do).
- Play worship music to sing and/or dance to every morning, which will help set a positive mood for the day.
- Memorize a Scripture verse each week, not for extra work, but for a reminder to release my cares to God and to focus on pleasing Him, and to “come away with Him” in my mind.
- Read the Bible every night in bed so that I fall asleep with my thoughts on God’s truth and His love for me.
- Have a hot bath once a week, complete with bath salts, candles, lotions, and soft music. This is mandatory.
- Physically get away, whether alone or with a friend, whenever possible.
This is obviously not going to be what a typical mountaintop looks like. Everyone’s mountaintops are unique, and change often with the various seasons in life. The key is to make it important and to take the opportunities to rest whenever possible.
I’m so glad I decided to have that “rest” lesson with my daughter. More than likely, I got more out of it than she did! I had needed a good reminder to make rest a priority. I think we all do.