Sunday, August 11, 2013

On Rest, or Lack Thereof

A quote I think of often comes from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She's talking about Americans when she says, "Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure)."

I keep thinking, the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as rest.

A while back, I remember panicking any time I thought about the fact that I was a full-on grown-up. I kept thinking that life was going to drone on and on and I was going to be overworked and unhappy and not have more than a week off at a time for the rest of my days on earth. That thought restricted my breathing, gave me tunnel vision, and caused heart palpitations as a cloud of doom would settle over me and throw me into a long chain of all-or-nothing, black-and-white internal dialogue.

(Welcome to the life of an overly-analytic introvert who trends toward anxiety and the need for control... and run-on sentences. My husband is a lucky man.)

Now I'm at the tail end* of eight weeks off of work. Eight weeks! Longer than I ever foresaw being off work. And under the circumstances, it was about 4 weeks longer than I'd hoped. It was restful, kind of. Not as I restful as I hoped it would be. Not as restful as other people hoped it would be.

I can see it in the eyes of the same friends who encouraged me to take a break in the first place when they ask, "Are you rested now?" All I hear is, "You're so lucky you caught a break. You'd better be grateful. Rest, gosh darn it!" And as usual, the perceived pressure to be or feel a certain way has had the opposite effect. Kind of like when people tell you to Enjoy. This. Time. (Be it high school, college, being married with no kids, having little ones at home, etc etc. We're always looking toward the next thing anyway.)  

You'll never get this chance again. You're gonna miss this. Carpe diem. You're only as happy as you make up your mind to be. Cue panic attack. Those kinds of thoughts are threatening to me. I just can't grasp timelessness this side of heaven.

I know that my loved ones have had their hearts in the right place. All they saw this winter was a haggard girl who cried all the time and carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. So they rightly, stubbornly encouraged me, Let go. Lay it down.

They said, I'm so excited to see what God does with this time!

I thought, Me too. God owes me.


And when the dream job with the dream salary didn't fall into my lap when I held my hands up in surrender? When our drastically smaller bank account ran dry? The sand drained to the bottom of the hourglass and there stood my idol, brazenly exposed: myself.

My self-perception, my self-worth, my priorities, me, me, me.

So this is me saying, Huh. I didn't handle this time well at all. Which can really be said of most things that have happened in the last 12 months. I put my hope in a new job. And it was awful. So I put my hope into working harder, and it failed me. Then I put my hope in rest and restoration. But I expected it to find me, and I didn't seek it with my whole heart. By now, I'm bored out of my ever-loving mind and catch myself thinking if I had just the right job to keep me busy and interested but not overwhelmed and overworked, well, that would just be great.

I wish I could snap some sense into myself sometimes.

But don't we all need to be reminded of this? As Thomas Watson says, "'Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet!" When I find myself just plain bitter, sweet is the relief I find in the arms of Christ, who is willing to shoulder my burdens and give me rest.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may brow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me:
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
{Psalm 34:8-14}

Yes, my soul, find rest in God'
my hope comes from him [...]
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
{Psalm 62: 5-8}

*I start a new job tomorrow! Back in the NICU! At a new-to-me hospital way the heck across town. I'm so scared but also so excited to be back with the babies.

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