So across the country many parents, teachers and children are enjoying the thought of no more school for a few weeks. No more homework, drop-offs, pick-ups and no more threat of COVID shaped home schooling, due to infections from class bubbles. Of course it’s a difficult time if you are a working mum to arrange childcare and there don’t seem to be as many holiday clubs running at the moment but at least it’s a change from the normal routine. A change is supposedly as good as a rest!
I have been thinking alot about rest, as it’s something I really struggle with. I tend to overcommit, overschedule and fill my diary. When I finally stop I’m usually fairly laid back but it takes me a while to wind down.
I think there are different kinds of rest we need for different reasons. So we need physical rest, and good sleep and nutrition can help with that. I’m sure you are aware of the different apps to use if you struggle to sleep but I’m finding the Lectio 365 app night prayer really restful before bed. There are other Christian mindfulness approaches and simple breathing exercises can really help us relax. Our need for emotional rest can simply be a case of finding people who don’t need support to chat to. We have a small WhatsApp group of busy mums in our late 40’s and we tend to support each other in more lighthearted ways rather than getting too deep as this is a safe space in which we can do that.
However recently as a church leader I’ve found recently it is more spiritual rest I am seeking. Supporting others who have emotional needs, is emotionally draining, and supporting others spiritually is spiritually draining. So how do we rest with God? Well there are some classic formulas, a proper day off with no interruptions, regular retreats and support from a spiritual director (bit like a counsellor for counsellors). In lockdown it’s been more tricky to feel connected through Zoom or phone calls. As a result I’ve been thinking more about self-care, so how can I make my own spiritual needs a priority.
But it’s not just church leaders who need spiritual rest, it’s something many of us might need but not realise. We are all spiritual beings, whether Christian or atheists. Signs of spiritual burnout tend to be the same as other kinds of burnout. We feel disconnected and the normal things that help don’t seem to be useful anymore. So Mother Teresa felt at the end of her life that God wasn’t listening when she prayed. She described this as a Dark Night of the Soul. Feeling disconnected spiritually can also be a sign that our emotional or physical needs are not being met.
Our feelings are not always a great way to know the truth as often we may feel differently from one hour to the next. I am quite an emotional person and can experience all sorts of things in 24 hours but the next day the storm has passed. Sleep, exercise and good food have a direct impact on my spirituality!
One aspect of spiritual rest I’m learning about though is allowing space to hear from God. Basically to let him talk, and for me to listen. Like with my husband after many years of marriage, I am prone to assume I know what God is going to say and I don’t always allow time for him to speak to me personally! I pray like mad for others but struggle to do that for myself. I don’t wait for God to speak, I fill the silence! But if I don’t rest in God, I miss out on the gifts he has for me, because he wants to equip me when we meet together. I’ve found just building in quiet time when there isn’t much else happening really useful to counter this. Time to bake bread, weed the garden, smell the coffee, go outside and watch the birds.
This summer we are trying to model spiritual rest with a new initiative called Reset on the 5th August at the local independent school, Read School in Drax. We are hosting a space which will include lots of outdoor space, some worship, space to sit and read, games and fun for the kids, but also chance to cook together, water the plants, and experiment with art. Maybe do some cloud gazing, or make a daisy-chain. We hope it will be refreshing for families and would like to welcome everyone to join in. If you would like more information please do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are not local though, I hope you enjoy this reflection. This verse from Isaiah has been something I’ve thought of often recently, but I’ve only recently learned that growing new feathers was seen in the Ancient world as how Eagles regained their strength for a new season.
So if you are tired today, I pray God brings you new feathers this summer ready to take off again when you are ready.
Surely you know the truth.
Surely you have heard.
The Lord is the God who lives forever!
He created all the faraway places on earth.
He does not get tired and weary.
You cannot learn all he knows.
He helps tired people be strong.
He gives power to those without it.
Young men get tired and need to rest.
Even young boys stumble and fall.
But those who trust in the Lord will become strong again.
They will be like eagles that grow new feathers.
They will run and not get weak.
They will walk and not get tired.
Isaiah 40 28-31 (easy-read Bible)