Why is rest such hard work?

Alysia Yates is one of those dearest kinds of people who come into your life for a season. When her husband first became our pastor at our former church, he described her to me as someone with two passions: literature and theology. My type of girl. She’s the mom of four and still manages to make time to write guest posts for the likes of me. This is her second post on Mama:Monk. Here’s her first. Thank you, Alysia!

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to rest, wondering why I find good rest so elusive.  I admit that my physical exhaustion is directly related to the circumstances of my daily life—four small children, a recent move to another state, and a husband who works long hours all take their toll—but I suspect that my lack of rest is deeper than my daily toil, and that I am not alone in not knowing how to cease from striving.  In fact, when I think about all of the people I know and love, I can’t think of anyone who would say they know how to rest well (or especially, who are well-rested).  We live in a culture that is addicted to work and success, and we often inadvertently translate our busyness into proof of our own status or importance.

Just a few days ago I tearfully admitted to my husband John that I feel perpetually spent at the end of every day, that these months of mothering from five or six in the morning till nine at night have worn me thin.  Yet even with such long days I am not able to accomplish what I want.  We have piles of laundry that never go away, unpacked boxes that linger, and rooms still be organized (not to mention decorated!).  Every room in the house could use an uninterrupted day of my attention, but those productive moments never come.  I find myself constantly choosing (rightly, I hope!) to attend to my children instead of my housekeeping, but then I feel overwhelmed by the “to-do” list that never ends.  How does one find rest in the midst of such a whirlwind?

The truth of the matter is that I cannot do it all—that I cannot control my life and make things instantly beautiful and peaceful.  I cannot make my (not so little) babies sleep through the night, nor can I manage my little brood on my own.  I need a whole lot of help and even more grace to see me through, and I need to find my rest in One who is much stronger than I am.  I need to put aside my own expectations of what successful mothering looks like and look to the One who made us all, allowing Him to show me how to get from day to day.

But in order to do this work of rest, I must take the time to stop, even when it means a messy house (or, in my case a messier); I have to come to a physical halt so that I can be spiritually refreshed.  In these quiet still moments I can remember that the world does not rest on my shoulders and I can let loose those stresses which are not mine to carry. Because ultimately all of these gifts that I attempt to steward are just that—gifts—which I want to claim but are better left in God’s hands.

In the midst of my toiling I keep returning to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11, which I find endlessly comforting: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Jesus offers us an entirely new category of rest, one that goes beyond a good night’s sleep or satisfaction in a job well done.  Jesus offers rest for our souls, a peace beyond understanding.  And His rest is enough to get me through these tired days, enough to give me the hope and strength I need to carry on.  All I have to do is to stop long enough to remember Who is really in control, and to have the courage to embrace the rest He gives.


Filed under Motherhood, the Praying Life

3 Responses to Why is rest such hard work?

  1. Alysia,
    I love this! Even though my kids are grown I still need it. It’s too easy to get addicted to busyness and accomplishment. I need this this morning. You blessed me!!!

  2. Beth Harvin

    Thank you for this, Alysia! I could feel my shoulder-blades unclenching as I read it.

  3. Amy Snell

    Beautiful Alysia, especially from a woman who handles life with so much grace and joy!

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