When our Rector, Lisa, assigned The Way of Love topics to those who agreed to write, I was so pleased to get “Rest” because I thought it might help me understand why it was even on the list. I associate it with something I will get to do after I die, maybe. One morning shortly after being told I could think about rest for the blog series, I woke up savoring the challenge, only to come across this in the morning paper:

 

TAURUS (APRIL 20-MAY 20)

You could go longer. You could do more. You could express with greater eloquence.

You could leap higher. You could think deeper… These are all things that could happen

             after noon today. 

 

I don’t practice astrology, but I have to admit I had a fleeting thought that at least the universe has a good sense of humor. 

So, this past month I have been thinking about what rest could mean for me and for us. I am enrolled in a course right now being taught at Linden Hills Church of Christ, just around the corner from St. John’s. It is a course called Cultivating Emotional Balance, and it was developed by psychologists and anthropologists under direction of the Dali Lama, who tasked them to design a secular course on emotion so that anyone, regardless of faith, could learn how to identify emotions and their role in our lives. The best thing about the course for me has been the mandate to meditate 24 minutes a day, using a guided meditation by B. Alan 

Wallace.  

One thing I’ve realized is that I had actually set up a kind of competition in my mind about meditation. I have practiced it in the past, on and off. I have loved the idea of Centering Prayer but have only been successful a month or two at a time, and then I get too busy.

Before taking this course, I had thought that guided meditation was kind of a crutch- low on the ladder of meditation accomplishment! And what I have learned, during this particularly busy and stressful year I am in (mostly self-imposed I might add,) is that these guided meditations are helping me learn how to relax my mind so that I can experience awareness, that state of just “being” that I so rarely appreciate and need to be healthy. It is also a state that rests the chemicals of stress that can harm us if we don’t learn how to come back to a feeling of being safe. During a late-summer thunderstorm, I surrounded our sheltie Pip on one side, while Charles, my husband, surrounded him on the other, trying to comfort him and help him stop shaking and keep him from fervently searching the turmoil in the sky through the window. I looked at him, and thought, yes, this is probably exactly what I look like to God most of the time.

Matthew 11 :20

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

A few weeks ago, I found myself waking up with severe anxiety- a sign that life is out of balance and no matter why or who caused it, I needed to find a way to Jesus and receive rest. That gift is being offered now when I honor, at the very least, the 24 minutes to listen to the guided meditation- so happy for the crutch! 

In Bishop Mariann Budde’s Podcast on Rest, she reminds us we are indeed mortals and have limits to our energy, rest is what we need to be able to turn, learn, pray, worship, bless and go. Burn-out is a common affliction for those that don’t know how to rest. It will take practice, practice, practice, for me. Mariann also encouraged us to think about this in a personal way. Each of us is unique, so rest will mean something different for each of us. 

What I have lost this year in cutting myself off from rest is a great deal, and I am sure I don’t see it all. Those things that bring me rest: poetry, music, and walks for taking in light and air (instead of the goal of getting exercise) have been missing, and in this, the “spaciousness of time” that Mariann speaks of. My relationships suffer in being over-committed to my own projects. My projects aren’t bad projects, but I am humbled to realize that it doesn’t matter if I think I should be able to do all of them and still be a good partner, good friend, good member of the Body of Christ- I have evidence, right in my anxious body and mind, that I have surpassed my abilities and it is time to find rest, which means something  bigger to me than not-doing. 

The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14)

I am finding this verse so enlivening. For me, it means that while I will continue to come to God in meditation and He will give me rest, His presence will go with me as well, and give me rest. Out in the world, in my relationships, in whatever situation I find myself in – I can learn how to look and listen for God there, in that moment, and His presence will give me rest.

This feels very spacious to me; it brings me a sense of peace; it helps me to remember to breathe. 

Thank you for reading. I hope my reflections are helpful for you, I have been learning from all of the reflections offered. 

Jil Evans