“This culture places too much pressure on new mothers to jump right back into everything right away when it should be encouraging others to take care of her so she can rest,” I’ve said to more than a few persons. “A menstruating woman isn’t supposed to be doing; she’s supposed to be being. It’s her time to rest and reflect. Her time for doing will come later,” I say to all my Natural Family Planning clients, and well, to anyone who will listen. It seems a lot of my work is encouraging people to take breaks. I finally decided to listen to my own advice. I gave birth about two months ago for the fourth time. My midwife gave strict orders for me to rest. For the first week I should be primarily lying or sitting, she said.
So that’s what I did. Unlike with the births of my daughters, where I know I did too much too soon, this time I stayed lying or sitting, and I slept a lot. I noticed how much sooner my body was healing this time around. One day, while I was lying in my bed, just awake from my nap with my son and now nursing him, I thought about rest.
It’s really hard to rest — at least it is for me, and I suspect it is for many people. There’s always so many volunteer opportunities for some very worthy causes. There’s work, appointments, bills, housework, meals, kids, and on and on. It seems there’s more to do than any of us has time for. After having just given birth, however, there were all the same things to do, but I knew that it wasn’t my job to do them. My job was to rest. It struck me as an odd thing. It was obvious to me that God’s will for me at that moment was not to do, but to be. In fact, if I had jumped out of bed at that moment and started trying to do a bunch of housework, pay bills, answer emails, and the like, I knew I would be going against God’s will.
Why has that never struck me before? In fact, every Sunday God calls me to rest, yet how often do I do instead? It seems like such a loving command from such a loving God. To realize that God doesn’t want me to run myself ragged into the ground with accomplishing so many things, to think that God doesn’t want me to be stressed or frantic with finishing the maximum amount of tasks in the most efficient way possible, but instead He says to me, “Come away by yourself to a deserted place and rest awhile.”
It seems to me that to rest is an act of humility. I must be humble enough to know that everything does not depend on me. Others are capable too. I must avoid the temptation to become indispensable in order to empower others to do the work so that I can rest when needed. Resting is an act of trust. I must trust in God that the necessary things will get done, and again, that all does not depend on me. Finally, to rest is to affirm our own dignity. Unlike the gods of the ancients, the God of Abraham did not create people to be His slaves. We are created in the image and likeness of God, created with dignity, and therefore we must rest. We do not earn our worth by our accomplishments. Our worth is a free gift, and to rest is to live according to the dignity that is ours.
And now it is September. A frenetic month of back to doing for many people. Last year’s homeschooling was for me a year of anxiety. Were my children learning enough? Was I doing enough? Surely we needed to do more and learn more, and do it quicker and learn faster! I even looked into the possibility of sending my children to school for this year. Although I had felt when my oldest was five that God was calling us to follow the unschooling approach for our children’s education, I wondered if God was calling us to now abandon it. The school that would have been a good fit for us was already full however. That fact seemed like one instance among many that reaffirmed this path that we are on. Even though I always said that it didn’t matter when children learn to read as long as they do eventually learn it, I secretly worried about my ten-year-old. Last year she was reading slowly and not on “grade level”. Then, seemingly overnight, she was suddenly reading adolescent chapter books with ease. I guess I could’ve relaxed.
In my household responsibilities too, I keep hearing the whispers to let go and to trust. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” says Jesus. I need to listen and to learn this message, like when I let the messy living room or kitchen ruin my peace. I need to remember this message when I look at my to-do list and see that there are many things to get done, more than I have the time to do. I’ve been doing better at living in the present moment and being at peace with whatever task is before me, practicing peace when I snuggle with my baby while the laundry stays piled up, or even when dinner is late to the table. I keep telling myself that God will give me the time to do that which He wills me to do. Slowly, slowly I am learning that there is a way to go about my tasks that is rushed and full of anxiety, and there is a way of being that is calm and even restful in the midst of doing.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10