As I lay awake the other night ruminating over upcoming meetings, plans, and agendas, my mind was racing a mile a minute. Rest there was not. And although I’m quite familiar with Jesus’ words, “Do not worry about tomorrow,” (Matthew 6:34), that familiarity did not translate into actuality.
Maybe you struggle with the same propensity toward anxiety.
I recently read that a comprehensive study in the United Kingdom revealed that children learn to rest in the same way they learn to walk, run, and talk. “Rest takes practice” (Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, 141).
Every parent who has tried to get his or her child to go to bed knows that ritual and routine are immensely valuable in learning to fall asleep. A regular schedule, dim lights, reading time, rocking, allow children to carve out a pattern and a biochemical path to rest. Without ritual and rest, our children become hyperactive and can often exhibit behavioral problems. And I’m not much different.
Habits of rest or restlessness form us over time.
Part of my problem is that I somehow have in my mind that I must take charge. I have to control the situation in order to meet my goals or the goals of our ministry. I lie awake, because I need to figure out what path I can follow, what words I can use, what actions I can take. Like the training of a child, I must train myself to embrace the rhythm of rest which opens me up to the beauty of grace. I am not in charge, and I trust in the One who is.
Eugene Peterson says, “The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep and God begins his work” (Working the Angles, 68). For Christians, the liturgy of rest is an act of reliance on God.
We live in a workaholic culture that is image-barraged, overcaffeinated, entertainment-addicted, and supercharged. Our habits of restlessness have formed us into anxiety-prone, over-stimulated people who don’t know what to do with silence and cessation.
Trish Harrison Warren asks the question, “What if Christians were known as a countercultural community of the well-rested—people who embrace our limits with zest and even joy?” (Liturgy of the Ordinary, 152).
Let’s make it our aim to develop habits of rest—for our bodies, minds, and souls are always intertwined. Soul care necessitates mental and physical care. Perhaps a key to developing a life of prayer and holiness is simply receiving the gift of a good night’s sleep.
Tonight, when you lie down, practice the grace of rest and yield to sleep. Drift out of consciousness knowing that you are still held fast by the One who never slumbers nor sleeps. Make this your evening prayer:
“Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping;
that awake we may watch with Christ,
and asleep we may rest in peace”
(The Prayer of Compline, Book of Common Prayer, 134).
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone,
Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).