Encountering God in Rest
CWOW member Anne G reflects on the discipline of finding rest.
Rest is a discipline that does not come easily for me. Growing up in an immigrant family where my parents worked dawn to dusk six days a week trying to make ends meet, a strong work ethic and a stronger drive to succeed became my foundational identity. Up until my first child was born, I had always studied or worked full time. Even most of my vacation time was devoted to family commitments rather than my personal recreation.
Rest became an even more daunting goal for me as I entered into motherhood. Since sleep deprivation was so acute during the early childrearing years, I was forced to become better about physical rest (i.e. conking out whenever I can and as much as possible). But even as I became better about getting enough sleep, I realized that true rest still eluded me.
I was feeling so anxious and aimless that my physical rest did not translate into true rest for me. I was grateful that I had the option of staying at home with the kids during their early years. But at times, I felt that I was wasting my life feeding and diapering my ungrateful kids and arguing with them as though I just turned 4 yesterday. I was driven to do good works with my limited discretionary time so that I could prove my self-worth. All those good projects were satisfying and brought me joy, but I also found myself driven to exhaustion.
As I scaled back my various activities in the past four months, I started thinking and praying about what I need to find true rest. The phrase that kept coming back to me was “inner peace.” My personal definition for inner peace became cessation of striving. My self-worth has been closely linked to productivity and measurable success. Even with my daily hard work and creative solutions, my young boys will not turn into rational, peace-loving, grateful and productive members of our society overnight. I do not have a prestigious title or salary figures to measure my success. All these conditions are ripe to turn a driven person like me manic looking for other ways to find fulfillment.
In the past few months, I started a regular practice of clearing my mind by setting aside many whirling ideas and creating space to hear God’s voice above my own good intentions, desires and compulsions. Sometimes, it is helpful for me to visually imagine myself sweeping away my cluttered thoughts to make a clean space. In that space, I can hear God’s blessing affirming who I am and where I am. I can receive inner peace enabling me to rest physically, emotionally and spiritually. In that space, I am convicted that there is a season for every activity – moments to rest completely and moments to strive vigorously. In that space, I am at peace with who I am without having to prove myself because my Father—who knows me and sees me—loves me. My inner peace and rest are often short-lived. As I continue the discipline of seeking God and His voice regularly, I hope it will be easier each year to find God’s rest and love in my daily life.