“Put down the gloves,” he told me, “and stop fighting.”
Biting back the tears, a silent pause held in their place, my body slumped to my bedroom floor. That day in October, I reached the end of my rope. Exhausted. Depleted. Sucked dry of inspiration and overwhelmed.
“Please, give yourself permission to rest,” he continued.
Jonny is one of those friends who will pick up your phone call in the middle of a movie. He will drive to meet you at the other end of the city in the middle of a snowstorm. He knows exactly what to say and how to say it. But that conversation we had in October wasn’t just Jonny’s voice that I was hearing–it was as if I was hearing God say the words he wanted to tell me all along, “Give yourself permission to rest in Me.”
Here’s the truth about me: I am addicted to over-giving and over-doing. I fear slowing down and being still, perhaps because it brings feelings of inadequacy.
I have never written this down before and it’s hard for me to even publish. It’s hard to admit my weaknesses. But if I have learned anything lately, it is to stop being afraid of looking like a failure. Vulnerability is beautiful and silence doesn’t benefit anyone, so I am learning to be brave and go first.
That day in October, I ached the sadness of a spent soul. I’d been putting in long hours and too much work, balancing school, community leadership, church ministry, family and friends. What suffered were my relationships, attitude, health, and stress level. I spread myself so thin that I gave very little to the people around me, and I put God in my back pocket.
And that’s the challenge: the world tells us that long hours and work matter more than people and God. The world tells us we’re not good enough, that we’re not worthy of rest. There is nothing more painful than walking around with heavy shoulders, burdened from an overwhelmed schedule, believing there is more that God made us to do. I’ve been there. We fear rest, because if we slow down or let ourselves be still, we will see the mess and the root of it.
I can’t recall much else from the conversation with Jonny that day, but I will always remember the words he uttered: “Resting honors God. This is where blessings flow and transformation happens.”
When I slow down, when I focus on saying yes to the right assignments, when I take the time to enjoy the beauty of Creation, or sit down with a good book and a cup of tea, or when I belly-laugh with girlfriends until our sides hurts: this is where self-love takes place and stress levels decline.
Rest is where we are made whole again.
Rest is where we discover the beauty in our flaws and where hopefulness is found. It’s where all the little things inside of us become rewired and beautiful again. It’s where relationships are restored and healthy ones are formed. Rest is where tiny victories are won and blessings are found.
Bill Johnson said, “We’ve been designed as a resting place for the spirit of God, changing every environment that we walk into.”
When my soul is refreshed, I become aligned with God again. We can express those spent parts of our souls, so that we can go out and serve others with the right attitude. This is where we become more like God. Our attitudes, relationships, how we love others and ourselves, is a reflection of the One living within each of us. This transformation in ourselves–from busy and overwhelmed to refreshed and Christ-like–can transform the environment we walk into.
I am learning that people need me and God wants me. They need the best parts of me. Not the exhausted, burnt out, overwhelmed and depleted me. The hopeful, joyful, loving, healthy me. The one who reflects the light of Jesus in the places I enter and in the things I do.
I now give myself permission to rest, slow down, grow, feel, and to be afraid. I am learning to choose my assignments more wisely.
Let’s rest, knowing we are enough, just as God made us.
Originally published July 30, 2015 http://shelovesmagazine.com/2015/rest-as-transformation/