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To Rest

I can’t take credit for this. It originated with God, first book, Old Testament. How many times have we read the story of creation, how the Almighty formed the earth with His very own hands, shaped the creatures of the land, sky and sea before finally, making man? Indeed, within the first few chapters, we are given some pretty important lessons about how we are expected to live. And not all of them relate to that darned apple.

I have been listening to a Biblical podcast recommended to me by one of my medical team. The scholars dissect the meaning behind those familiar passages, and I admittedly find their take on things fascinating. But it has also given me some of food for my own thought. And, of course, that means I need to share.

The story of that first week, when our earthly domain was established, culminates in day seven, when God rested. I can remember as a child thinking that making a world must have been exhausting for Our Lord. What else would explain His need to prop up His feet and chill when He was done? Of course, now, I understand that He was modeling something for us rather than taking care of Himself. He was showing us that it is perfectly fine and even holy to do the same.

So much of our identity as a human being is connected to what we do for a living, what education we have earned, and what accolades we have won. We ask strangers about their hobbies, and respond with admiration for the marathon runners and creative artists. Such questioning is a regular part of the informal interviews that we conduct when we meet folks, and often, our perception of others is tied to the answers. We respect success and honor a strong work ethic. But perhaps more importantly, such ideas affect the way we view ourselves. We begin the inevitable judgment, which often leaves us feeling that we have somehow fallen short, by comparison. That’s unfortunate. And unfair. And wrong.

Most cultures tend to value busyness. We are blatantly told, in fact, that being idle is bad. Do a quick internet search and you will find quotes from philosophers to kings about the evils of doing nothing. It leads to all manner of wickedness, they say, since obviously nothing good can possibly come from doing nothing.

But on the seventh day, God rested, right?

Having cancer can be exhausting. For me, one of the most difficult parts of being sick has been the overwhelming fatigue. It is not a normal tired, like at the end of a long day of work or exercise. No, it is worse, much worse. Walking to the kitchen to get a drink of water often feels like climbing Mt. Everest. Your arms and legs feel heavy and disconnected from the rest of your body. Everything feels like a chore. And while the cancer brochures admonish that staying active is best, somehow just the idea of it is completely draining.

And so, I rest.

It has taken me a long time to give myself permission to spend a day in bed, watching mindless TV or flipping through one internet source after another. I had to work through the guilt of not being able to cook or do laundry like I once did. And learning how to ignore the dust bunnies and cobwebs has been a process. I am not idle, I tell myself, not building some workshop for the devil. I am healing, trying hard to repair my broken body. And that is good.

Allowing myself to “simply be” has encouraged me to think in ways I never have before. Sometimes a relaxed mind becomes fertile ground for self-discovery. That’s been an added benefit. Even for the able-bodied, being still in this land of abundant noise and rampant chaos, can be physically and spiritually therapeutic. We worry and fret and labor all week long only to tackle another kind of to-do list on our days off. Certainly, this can’t be healthy for the body or good for the soul.

It is perfectly fine to stop the world for a moment, exhale, and just relax. In fact, it is highly recommended. Just ask God. And He wrote it all down for us, just in case we forget.

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