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June 4, 2024

Summer Rest When You are Soul Weary

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Rest to me can feel like a bad word. And I say “feel” because rest actually sounds nice, but it feels bad. It feels bad to let my hands drop, to let my mind stop, to cease from making, creating, hustling, doing, and simply…trust. Because that’s what rest is, isn’t it? It’s trust. Rest is trust that while we are letting our hands drop, our eyes sleep, our minds turn off, we can trust God is still at work holding it all together, holding you.

So what if you and I actually rested this summer? What if instead of hustling to do more, and fit more in, we entered into a time of rest to allow our souls and our homes to restore?

I was struck by something the other day as I meditated on Scripture and this concept of rest. Sabbath doesn’t start the week; it ends the week. God did not rest on the first day of the week and then allow His creative work and activity to flow out of His rest. He ended His work and creativity with rest. His rest was a way of simply saying, “It is finished. And it is good. There is nothing more that needs to be added or done.”

What if you and I this summer ended our school year with rest? What if we stopped from doing things we normally do in order to take a deep breath, let our hands drop, and acknowledge with our words and with our actions: whatever we did this year, it is enough. How we grew or didn’t grow. How we nailed that test or didn’t. How we accomplished that goal or let it fall by the wayside. However we reached the finished line – running, walking, crawling, or barely gasping for breath – is where we are going to stop. And we are going to celebrate what we finished and accomplished this year. We are going to celebrate with our kids, our company, our spouse, our church, our family, our community – this is the work we did, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was enough.

Because here are three things I know about myself and about our culture:

  1. We don’t stop long enough to remember and celebrate.
  2. We don’t stop long enough to acknowledge our limits.
  3. We don’t stop long enough to replenish, renourish, and rest.

I had a Sunday School teacher say one time, and I’ve never forgotten it, “We are what we celebrate.” I think that teacher was right. But personally speaking, we move so fast and jump from one thing to another so quickly, we don’t take the time to really remember and celebrate. Or we celebrate things that aren’t really worth celebrating in a way that doesn’t really bring life.

So, take a moment at the beginning of your summer to ask yourself – what about my past year, my family’s, or my community’s, needs to be celebrated? Maybe it’s not so much the grades on your kids’ report cards or the amount of dollars earned at the office or followers added on Instagram but it’s the good character developed when no one else was looking. It was the hard work that went behind the grades, no matter what the grades were. It was the endurance and determination that went into being a part of a team and showing up at all the practices instead of the actual playing time on the field. Some of our kids saw straight A’s and starting positions on their teams this year, and some of our kids worked harder than anyone else in the house to squeak by with straight B’s and even some C’s. But we saw the hours of effort, the tears, and the heart.

I am often tempted to measure my life by and celebrate perfection. A perfect grade. A perfect job. A perfect blog entry. A perfect day. But measuring myself and even my kids by perfection only leads to paralysis. As my husband often reminds me, there is only one perfect Person, and we are not Him. We are to measure our lives by progress and by growth as we mature into His image. So what progress and what growth do you need to stop and celebrate?

Then after we celebrate, we pause before rushing into the next thing and acknowledge our limits. I really struggle with this one. I work and expect myself to work like I don’t have limits. And here’s the real kicker: deep down, when I peel back the layers, I think God is frustrated with my limits as well. While I profess that He is the only unlimited One, I live like He expects me to be unlimited too.

But the heart of rest involves acknowledging our creaturely limits and then embracing them. It involves leaning into our limits instead of resisting them.

So I’m going to ask you a really important and practical question: What are your limits? To live like we do not have limits is the height of foolishness. We are not the Creator; we are the created. God is the only limitless one, and He does not get frustrated when we hit our limits. He made them. He made us to sleep in the night and be up, awake, and working in the day. He made us to have significant, meaningful, and life-giving relationships with Him and one another. He made us to live in families and communities and honor and value the people in them. While some of our limits are personal according to how God made us, many of our limits are universal because we are all made in the image of the same God.

Here are some of my personal limits: I need sleep, 7-8 hours each night, in order to be a sane, functioning human being. I need to eat, three times a day, enough protein and fresh fruits and vegetables to support the pace of life I live. While I wish I could live on peanut butter and apple slices alone, that will not sustain me. And eating well takes thought, time, and intentionality. I need to schedule and allow for sufficient pauses in my day before racing from one activity to the next. Before I hop on a Zoom call or step into a meeting or pick up a child from school, I need space of ten or fifteen minutes to clear my head and calm my heart. And here’s a big one for me I’ve learned recently: I need sufficient down time when I’m not thinking about work or how to be effective or creative in order to actually step back into the ring to be creative again. I’m learning if I do not pause after I celebrate long enough to acknowledge, think through, and honor my limits, I will not have enough energy or strength for whatever season lies ahead.

Finally, after celebrating our progress and acknowledging our limits, we have to stop long enough to rest. I made the mistake at the end of the school year to have a major planning session for the fall. Can I just tell you I felt like my brain hit a brick wall? After a year of retreat planning and hosting, Bible study editing and releasing, and then nine weeks of live teaching, I was done. As in put a fork in me. But for some strange reason, I forgot my limits. I forgot I am not a machine but a person made in the image of a God who is not disappointed with my limits. He made them. And to circle back to the very beginning, He wants me to trust Him enough to celebrate, lean into my limits, and then rest and recharge while believing He will sustain me, keep the universe going, and have a plan for me to step back into while I have time to let go and fall apart (or at the very least, take a nap).

So I would encourage you, just as I have had to remind and encourage myself, take time this summer to celebrate the end of a year, to think through and acknowledge your limits, and then to lean into life-giving rest. It will prepare your heart for all God has for you to step into in the seasons ahead.

To help us think through our summer rhythms of rest, I’ve created this guide to help us pause and create pathways for ourselves and the people we love.

To help you with times of rest and restoration in God’s Word, consider doing one of Susannah’s Bible studies or establishing a rhythm of prayer with her prayer guide and journal: