Recently God has been forcing me to learn more about rest, whether I want to or not. Over and over again over these last few weeks, several of my encounters have led me down a path of learning to slow down and just be. If you know me, you know that I don’t slow down well. Some of that is current life situation. Those of you with young kids get it and if your kids are grown, you remember. But besides my current life situation, I also don’t choose to slow down and rest much of my own free will. I am constantly looking for the next fun adventure or experience. My husband is the opposite, and he definitely balances my “go, go, go” way of living but I am constantly learning that God wants more of my being than my doing.
My spiritual director taught me this phrase years ago and I come back to it time and time again. Evelyn Underhill wrote, “We spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, to do- but what really matters is TO BE. “
I was reminded again of this by my Barre workout coach this weekend who said that we are human Beings, not human Doings and I can’t agree more. But incorporating the spiritual practices that allow us to simply “be” will often need to be honed and refined. To be, doesn’t just naturally happen.
And so, my question for us to ponder today is this. Why is it so difficult to just be? Where does the pressure, drive or expectation come from to make us human doings? And what does God have to say about it?
I can tell you from my own life that part of it is temperament, part of it is our family of origin and part of it is the community we find ourselves in. Only one of these things can we really do much about, and that is our temperament; our own self awareness and spiritual maturity. But so much of our temperament is influenced by our schedules, routines, internal and external needs and the way we view the world. When it comes to the way rest realigns us with God, I spend much of my time reorienting the way I view the world. Somewhere along the way I learned the untruth that doing is more valuable than being. That what I produce and accomplish is more important than who I am at my core. Part of that is the societal pressure that comes from us always introducing myself by my degrees, accomplishments, educational milestones and who I am connected to as a person.
What if we flipped those societal pressures upside down? Could you imagine how different conversations would be if I introduced myself with this elevator speech:
“I am Rachel, created and beloved by God, passionate about relationships, I enjoy church history, I hum when I am carefree, I am not interested in fashion, but very interested in helping others belong. And most of the time I am tired and a little bit of a hot mess, but I love to laugh and not take life too seriously…
What would your ‘being not doing’ elevator speech be?
The point is this. When we are authentically living into the person we are at our core, we are more open to resting in the Presence of the one who created us. We don’t have to put on a show, we can be vulnerable and still valued.
When I think about why it is hard to just be, there is this sense of needing to prove that I am doing a good job, that I am a capable pastor, a competent leader, a gracious servant, a relatable friend. I look around at my other colleagues and clergy friends and feel sometimes that I am not enough. And then I remember that comparison is the thief of joy and I check myself again. When I get in a rut and push myself too hard and too fast that I miss the chance to slow down and be, I also miss the chance to really be loved on by God.
Maybe this illustration will help. I think about how my children enjoy being loved on. Right now, our 11 month old is so busy exploring the world, crawling and almost walking that she doesn’t slow down and will only snuggle right at the end of the night when she is beyond exhausted, so much so that she fell asleep today in her highchair! She doesn’t rest well either because she is too busy. But my older two really savor their hugs from Ryan and I. They crawl into our lap, or ask to be snuggled before bed, they still hold our hands and they just want to be close to us. As I process my invitation to rest more as an adult, I think it is more like the second scenario. I think God invites us to hold God’s hand, or climb into God’s arms and slow down a bit. When we are that secure in the love of our Father, we feel fully known and still fully loved.
I want to rest like that and I want to get to a place where the world isn’t constantly getting in the way. Of deep and meaningful rest. I pray you find that rest too both physically and spiritually.
If you would like to talk more about the idea of spiritual rest and contemplation, I invite you to bring your own lunch and join me this Thursday, July 20th anytime between 11am-1PM at the church. We will talk through the practices of spiritual rest a little deeper and learn from one another.