It was a scenario I knew all too well. My four-year-old son was showing signs of exhaustion before we even got home from preschool. I mean, he took a break on the playground to rest his head on the monkey bars, for goodness sake.
On the drive home, I said, “Honey, we’re going to put your sister down for her nap, then read a few books and lay down in your room for rest time today.”
Since he’d had the luxury of rest time on the couch the previous few days, he protested as I knew he would. It started with a pout, followed by a whine, and then an all-out wail. “But Mommy, I’m not tired.”
Oh yes you are, son.
I bit my tongue, but my determination was strong. The thick red circles around his eyes couldn’t be ignored. And the mother’s heart in me wanted to see him get good rest so he could enjoy his evening when Daddy came home from work.
So, true to my word, I put his sister down for her nap, read books, and then traipsed upstairs with him, his wails resurging.
After a round of psychological gymnastics, I got him settled in his bed and then laid down beside him, hoping to avoid any rebellious naptime antics. I looked at the clock and thought, He’s so tired … I bet it’ll take less than ten minutes before he’s out.
It started out like his normal sleepy routine. He flopped back and forth a few times, settling into the perfect position and snuggling his cheek into the pillow. His eyes started to droop …
Then he snapped them open and started talking to himself. This routine replayed itself over and over until my ten-minute prediction quickly passed. As time wore on, his efforts to stay awake became more unusual.
At about the thirty-minute mark, I watched his eyelids fall and thought this was the time he’d finally surrender. But then he jerked his head and chopped his arms as if channeling his inner Karate Kid.
Forty minutes passed. Then fifty. As we approached the one-hour mark, I couldn’t believe how hard my son fought the sleep his body so desperately needed.
And then it hit me. Like mother, like son.
That very day, I had played the roles of chauffeur, cook, cleaning lady, Bible study leader, writer, fitness-instructor-in-training, and Superwoman wannabe. In fact, while I waited for my son to fall asleep, I was secretly plotting what else I would get done once the house fell silent.
Unfortunately that day wasn’t an anomaly. Most days my to-do list is pumped with steroids, and my primary goal is to keep it from shrinking. If rest beckons, I push harder and say, “I’m not tired,” while God is likely watching me from heaven, shaking His head and saying, “Oh yes you are, daughter.”
The thing is, all my to-dos aren’t bad in and of themselves. Caring for my children is a God-given responsibility I can’t ignore. He’s also led me to certain writing and fitness pursuits. To ignore them would be disobedience on my part, and I want the promises Solomon offers in the second part of Proverbs 13:4.”Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”
On the other hand, I have to be careful to obey God’s commands. “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working” (Exodus 23:12).
How easy it is to keep working through the commanded rest times. If I can just get one more thing done … lead one more Bible study … then I’ll give myself a break. But as life usually goes, that break never comes. I find something else to fill its place and the wheels keep turning.
And all the while, God holds out His Big-Papa arms and says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Just like I longed to see my son get the sleep he needed that day after preschool, God longs to give me a holy rest. The kind of rest that will renew my spirit and strength for the most important callings He’s placed before me. A rest that He not only commands, but also beckons me to experience.
I’m learning that this type of rest doesn’t just happen; I have to intentionally seek it. I have to be willing to let my to-do list go unfinished sometimes. I have to prune away at my responsibilities when necessary. I have to learn to say “No” when God tells me a particular commitment is one too many.
And the hardest part? I have to be still — learning to shut my eyes and not snap them open, to keep my mouth closed and listen, to relax my arms when the karate-chops of life propel them to action.
A divine rest awaits me … if I will only surrender.