I am clearly trying to juggle too many things: Lord of the Flies, driving the squirrels from my attic (which are chirping as I write), completing my M.Ed. in Literacy, getting dressed, walking the dog, overseeing the endless cycle of laundry-meals-and-household mayhem and writing this blog, which I turned in late to my local newspaper.
In other words, I did not need to read the New York Times article “Your Body Knows You’re Burned Out,” to know that I – like many of you – often tackle too much.
“By some strange math, I once believed that life got easier as you got older,” I confessed to my husband, Dana, last night.
He laughed. Because at 8:00 p.m. after sending our two youngest children to bed, he was sitting on the couch with his laptop, working. I sat a few feet away by the wood stove, annotating a text for my 7th-to-8th grade students. In fact, I don’t think either of us has ever worked harder. Or been more tired.
While walking from my writing shed to the house early the next morning to get ready for work, I briefly considered whether I might get away with wearing my fuzzy fleece bathrobe to school. Overwork does funny things to the brain. Like make you forget what day of the week it is. Or month. Or year.
Which makes me realize my need for rest. Not the sort of rest advertised by pricey sleep-system mattress makers or luxury cruise lines, but the sort of rest that Jesus had in mind when he said
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT).
Or as Jesus might’ve said if he’d been speaking today, “Tired? Burned out? Get closer to me.”
Why? Because while hanging out on Earth, doing the hard work of being God-in-the-flesh, Jesus modeled what real rest looks like. Not the kind of rest that sprawls out on the couch at the end of the day with a tub of grub or splurges on a glitzy getaway. But the kind of rest that’s restorative and healthful and free. Best of all, it’s available right now. To everyone.
What does this rest look like?
The Hebrew word for “rest,” means “to cease.” It’s related to the word for “Shabbat,” which is the weekly day of rest on which God instructed people to cease from their work, or striving. The Greek equivalent of the word that Jesus used for “rest,” implies “to refresh.”
Coming to Jesus means ceasing from trying to handle life on your own. It is his invitation to stop striving and to ask for his help. It is receiving his rest, or refreshment, for your soul. Not just one day a week. But every day. Even when you can’t remember what day it is.
In essence, the rest that Jesus offers looks a whole lot like Shabbat. It is an opportunity to let go of the balls that are too many or too big for you to juggle and to trust that he can.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books celebrating the holidays with activities that build children’s faith.