A couple of weeks ago my MOPS group spent some time learning and talking about the idea of rest in the Bible. During our conversation time it became clear that we all needed rest, but had no clue how to go about getting it in this (parenting kids 5 and under) stage of life.
Rest is one of the hardest things for mom’s to do. For a lot of us there seems to be little to no opportunity for rest. Work schedules, our kids’ needs, caring for the house, meal prep, workouts, social engagements, and church activities take up all of our time. Just like Martha in the Biblical story, we prioritize and pride ourselves on the wrong things.
One detail of the Mary and Martha encounter with Jesus that I love is the fact that even though Martha was clearly trying to guilt and force Mary out of her rest, Mary wouldn’t budge. I’m sure, having a sister myself, there were plenty of “looks”, passive aggressive throat clearing, sighing and motions before Martha called out her sister in front of the guest of honor. If you have claimed rest before Jesus don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for being there! If you are struggling to rest, set your guilt aside. Rest is a gift from God to His beloved children. He knows you need it.
God created rest. Funny isn’t it? To think that in the very beginning He knew how much we would need it, so He carved out a resting time each week and showed us how to do it. (Genesis 2:2-3) I wonder how God spent that first day of rest…walking in the garden, lying in the grass, swimming in the lake, speaking to animals, taking a nap.
Jesus, just like His Father, calls us to the gift of rest: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Matthew 11:31. A sweet, whispered invitation to intimacy, relaxation, and quiet. Please note that Jesus doesn’t ask you to bring your Facebook friends or your planner with you. He wants you and Him, alone.
Because rest is found in Christ’s presence. One of my favorite verses I came across during a study of the Israelites journey to the promised land was Exodus 33:14. “The Lord replied, My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” Mary must have known this verse, known that sitting at Jesus feet, soaking in His presence was the rest she needed.
How do we busy women–the nose-wipers, the dinner fixers, the church girls–find rest with Jesus?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are some things that have helped me and that I’m leaning into in order to rest more.
- Make rest a priority. I’m very pregnant right now. I have a two year old, who is very…two. I’m tired a lot. But getting up just 20 or 30 minutes before I know that sweet tot will be up is such a game-changer. My morning time with Jesus and a hot cup of coffee is precious to me. It sets the tone of my day. It is my chance for a small rest before the day even begins.
- Pray. I don’t think God would create, command, and invite us into rest if it was impossible. Pray for God to open moments of rest during your day. Pray for the Holy Spirit to make you sensitive to those times and stop in God’s presence.
- Say goodbye to time wasters. Only you know what wastes your time. Social media can devour an hour in a heartbeat. So can multiple trips to the grocery store, library story hours, reading, couponing, blog reading (aka “online research”), and many other good things. But those good things aren’t good anymore if they distract me from the eternal things God has called me to: loving Him wholeheartedly and loving well the people He has given me. Weed out the time thieves in your life.
- Prioritize. Allow yourself to let go of some things so you can rest. Maybe that is perfectly organized anything or clean baseboards or laundry that gets folded right from the dryer. In our sharing at our MOPs group our “mentor mom” who was a full-time working mom shared that she loved interacting and playing with her kids after work. She joyfully made messes and created with her children while she could. And guess what? They outsourced the house cleaning. She loved her job as a Kindergarten teacher and loved playing with her kids, so she prioritized those things and let the housework go. Knowing your priorities will help you let go so you can be refreshed.
- Open your eyes to a different kind of rest. In my perfect world I would always have my coffee and Jesus time first thing and it would be a full 45 minutes of reading, journaling, praying, and even creating beauty in His presence. But that is not how it goes some (most) days. Practice abiding in the presence of God all day long. When you pray for your breakfast, actually pray, don’t just “say the blessing”. Turn on some Christian music and worship and dance with your kids. Let the words wash you and sing them TO God. Observe beauty in a flower, the snowfall, your babies eyes–wonder and worship in the little things. God doesn’t want to be a 30 minute appointment you keep every morning; He wants to walk with you in the mundane, gritty, and joyous areas of your life. This is a lot harder to do for me than just checking off a “quiet time” box on my mental to-do list.
- Ask for help. If rest is hard right now don’t be afraid to ask for help to get some rest. Find a friend (trade rest times), Grandma, spouse, or babysitter and get away. Literal rest (aka sleep) is great and exactly what I need sometimes. Other times I’ve asked my husband to handle dinner and strolled around Barnes and Noble with a latte in hand just browsing. I’ve asked for rest to spend time with my girlfriends chatting, building relationships and being encouraged. Bottom line: Find a way to go away and do something that refreshes your soul.
I don’t have this resting business all figured out. Sometimes my mind wanders, sometimes I’m not intentional about it, sometimes I’m so task oriented I just can’t rest–I’m in the kitchen scrubbing the proverbial (and literal) pots and pans. But I believe my good God desires rest for me. He longs for me to rest in Him, to be nuzzled in His arms close enough to hear His heartbeat.
He wants to give us the rest we crave. Let’s reach out and clasp it close.
Photography by Heather Burns.