Here’s some honesty for you (and for me). I’ve struggled for the better part of 2015 to find a healthy rhythm or routine when it comes to work and rest. When I work too hard or too long, I crave comfort in what can only be called laziness, but I often try to mask it as “rest”. I’ve noticed this for awhile: that when I work too much or take on too many things, all I want to do is nap, watch netflix, and do absolutely nothing. I essentially wear myself out, so that recovery period is not actual rest that benefits, but more like hiding from work and responsibility and avoiding productivity.
There’s been an idol of comfort in my life for a long time. I think that finding comfort and satisfaction in something will calm my weary heart, bring rest and relief, and that it will help me forget any and all of my worries. It’s been this way as long as I can remember. Bad day? Get a sweet tea, maybe a cookie, and go curl up on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls. Long day, feeling stressed? Grab chick-fil-a and wash your worries away. Feeling anxious/tired/sad/upset/overwhelmed? Nap and cry and avoid the issue until you feel better. It’s a terrible process I’ve been running to for so long.
My food pyramid for the past several months has consisted of frothy sweet drinks, fast food and sweets. It’s easy to excuse when you meet with a student and don’t want to watch her drink coffee while you sit empty handed. It’s easy to eat out when you think about the time it takes to cook, the fact that you have no groceries, and the desire to avoid hand washing the dishes at all costs. All of this eating, consuming, indulging… it’s really just masking a deeper issue. The truth is, my instinct to find comfort in these things is just an actual avoidance of really abiding in Christ. When I should be running to the Father, I’m seeking the easy fix. When I should be surrendering my issues at the foot of the cross, I’m clinging to the comfort foods I’ve come to love.
It’s been a long, drawn-out process of laziness and lack of healthy, God-honoring rest for too long. The side effects have been extremely apparent in my life: I’ve gained a lot of weight, I’ve had no energy, I’ve taken a nap most every day of 2015, I’ve been lethargic and tired and sad far too often. And none of this is pleasing to God or the quality of life that he desires for his children! Yet, the tendency to avoid and run to whatever will “satisfy” in that moment has just blinded me to this truth for far too long.
I was reminded of this truth recently from the book Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram. We are to work from our rest, not the other way around. When we aren’t abiding, resting in the Father, there is no fruit in our lives. Our work becomes fruitless, or at best, weak, and our arms start to fail. We can’t pick ourselves back up without returning to the root of the problem. Breen writes, “If fruit bearing is not coming naturally in our lives, could it be that we have not spent the proper season abiding?” For me, that answer was a resounding YES. That’s the root of the issue. He also writes about the process in a way that really summed everything up for me:
From abiding we grow, from growing we bear fruit, from bearing fruit we are cut back. When the Lord is moving you into a time of pruning and abiding, surrender to him. There is much grace to be found in the place of abiding.
I’ve resisted this pruning process for far too long. Breen explains that on the very first day that God created Adam and Eve, He rested. Their first full day of life was a day of rest before the real work actually began. Christ shows us this example over and over again – getting away for time with the Father before his ministry began, before the day began, and before anything big happened. This was a natural rhythm that sparked life into his work and ministry.
He taught this to his disciples also. Mark 6:31-32 “And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.”
This is not a new idea! And yet, I’ve had it upside down for quite some time – working too much with too little true rest, and then wondering why I feel so burnt out. But there also has to be a balance, because ceasing from all productivity (laziness) is not God-honoring either. He created work before the fall, work is good and not something to avoid for long periods of time. That’s why rest is unique from laziness. Rest still implies the “work” of abiding in the Father. When we shut down completely, we forget this key component and fail to draw near to be restored and refined.
All this resistance in my life came to a point of desperation finally, where it was a little too glaringly obvious to ignore any longer.
I know Ethan had noticed it too. Because when you stop wanting to cook, clean, do the laundry, plus you aren’t confident in your own skin… well, let’s just say your husband will inevitably notice. So he stepped up! We went from zero to sixty all thanks to his leadership. We decided to make some investments and to take this seriously, wanting a new way of life and not just a quick fix.
A few weeks ago, Ethan bought a bike. He’d been looking at them for quite some time as an option for commuting to work since we live nearby, but he was determined to use it for fitness as well. We decided to start Advocare and ordered the products for the 24 Day Challenge. We were given a very generous gift card to Trak Shak, so we both were fitted for and purchased new running shoes. And like that, we had all that we needed practically (no excuses!) and all the incentive you could ever need to make some changes.
The past two weeks have been kicking my butt (but in a really great way that I don’t want to ever end). Ethan started getting up at 6:00am to bike, and got me up to go to the gym. Every morning, we’ve made a deal that we won’t hit snooze or talk ourselves out of going. We started Advocare and have been eating really great food (that’s the best part of the 24 Day Challenge — it’s real food!). We’re cooking, planning, working hard together. I haven’t felt the need or desire to take a nap in two weeks. I have energy! I feel GOOD! I don’t feel tired or sad as often and I have a desire to actually get up and go. Literally, I don’t remember the last time I felt like that before about twelve days ago.
I will be the first to admit, I have such a long way to go! We have goals, and we’re working toward them. But for the first time in a long time, I don’t want to give up. I feel better in the mornings just knowing that I have the ability to make the choice to do something wise instead of curling up in a ball and avoiding all work and good rest. I actually feel more rested than I have in probably three years. Funny how that happens when you stop resisting all things good for you. I actually ordered a salad and liked it, I don’t even know what’s happening.
So I write this not to sound overconfident in myself, and not to say I have it figured out. I for SURE do not. But I know that this is good, it’s worth it, and it’s something I need to pursue even if the newness and excitement wears off. God is refining me hardcore, showing me all the areas I’ve been lacking fruit and calling me to abide. My work has suffered because my rest has been non-existent. My rest has suffered because my laziness has been in overdrive. The whole system has been upside down for so long, and at the end of the day I know God has been calling me to come back, to come abide, and to come find true rest in him instead of seeking comfort in the things that will never satisfy. I can’t run any longer (unless it’s at the gym, and then that’s good, right? 🙂