Rest Well to Serve Well
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke about rest: “Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NRSV).
Like music directors who mark the date in the margins of a hymnbook after the congregations sing a particular hymn, I write the date and sermon title in the margins of my Bible after preaching on a specific passage of scripture. Beside the Matthew 28 passage in my Bible, I noticed the following dates and sermon titles written in the margins of the page: July 22, 2018, "Prayer of Rest" and January 5, 2020, "Spiritual Rest." These worship series on prayer and holy rest were seasons of spiritual growth in my faith.
Almost two years ago, during the "Holy Rest Sermon Series," the congregation where I serve as pastor, reflected on the seven different kinds of rest: physical, mental, spiritual, social, creative, sensory, and emotional. We discovered that rest is much more than sleep.
Holy rest is about connection to our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. As we rest in God's presence, we learn the compassionate ways of our Lord. We recognize the burdens we carry. We acknowledge the freedom given in mercy. We embrace new energy in the presence of Christ and help others feel the presence of Christ as well.
In her book, Sacred Rest; Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith describes the seven different kinds of rest she found lacking in her patients. She discovered how rest impacts every part of our lives. Review the seven kinds of rest from her book that will restore and renew your body, mind, heart, and soul.
Physical: The chance to use the body in restorative ways to decrease muscle tension, reduce headaches, and promote higher quality sleep.
Mental: The ability to quiet cerebral chatter and focus on things that matter.
Spiritual: The capacity to experience God in all things and recline in the knowledge of the Holy.
Emotional: The freedom to authentically express feelings and eliminate people-pleasing behaviors.
Social: The wisdom to recognize relationships which revive from ones that exhaust and how to limit exposure to toxic people.
Sensory: The opportunity to downgrade the endless onslaught of sensory input received from electronics, fragrances, and background noise.
Creative: The experience of allowing beauty to inspire awe and liberate wonder
After reading a few pages, I became very fond of this doctor. In her practice, she treats each patient by caring for the whole person; body, mind, heart, and spirit. She is a Christian who does not force Jesus upon her patients. However, in treating the whole person, she shares conversations around the spirit and soul. If a patient prefers a different method of treatment, then she recommends for them to find a different doctor. My favorite story in the book is about Karen. Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith writes:
Karen spent a lot of energy complaining about how she felt rather than using that energy in a more productive way. She chose to idolize her fatigue and lack of mental clarity rather than do the necessary work to change it. As she sat before me with her list of complaints, I began to wonder if she was unwilling to change or just didn't know what to change.
At one point in the conversation, I'd heard all I cared to hear. I closed my laptop and turned on my stool to face Karen. I could see she was unsure what was happening. She continued to ramble on, looking between me and my computer. I was no longer typing in any of the information she was sharing. Eventually, she stopped talking. I couldn't help smiling at the bewilderment on her face. My mind juggled an idea I quickly dismissed. It was crazy, but sometimes the unusual opens the door to the miraculous. I figured Why not? and jumped right in.
Karen, What you need I can't provided in a fifteen-minute office visit. Since we both have cell phones, I'm willing for the next thirty days to send you a text. All I ask is that you read each text and do what it says daily.
A few months later Karen returned to see me. In her arms, she carried a pink leather-bound journal. The toughness she had displayed in her first visit was now softened by the deep watering of a well-rested life. Her strength was reinforced and made even more lovely in the sacredness of rest.
Dr. Saundra listened to her patient and listened to God's still small voice. She took a risk in her practice to move away from writing a prescription to writing thirty text messages. Dr. Saundra's creative, compassionate, and consistent care brought a long-lasting healing to her patient. This story, along with many others, demonstrates how often rest is overlooked and undervalued. At the end of her book, Dr. Saundra offers readers a Thirty Day Sacred Rest Challenge. Like Karen, readers can receive daily rest prompts from Dr. Saundra and discover the gift of a well rested life.
Two years ago, I signed up for the Thirty Day Sacred Rest Challenge and I encourage you to do the same. In October, spend time resting each day. Also, take the free rest quiz and determine which area of rest needs the most improvement in your life.
Before we can serve well, we must rest well. This weekend, take a simple step in mission by restoring your heart, body, mind, and soul.
Rev. April H. Cranford