Last week, I talked about my words for 2016: Celebrate and Rest. My mind has latched on to Rest as a concept, and I’m the kind of person who likes to chase a concept as far as it can go when it catches my attention. Rest isn’t natural to me, so I’ve been turning it over, under, and inside out in an effort to grasp it better. What is rest? How do I do it? What keeps me from doing it well? As usual, my research has me digging through definitions, and combing through dictionaries for more about this rest that eludes me so. Nerd that I am, this list goes way beyond English now. I had to go back to ancient Hebrew and Greek to understand it better, and here’s a bit of what I found:
Nuach | Hebrew | Verb
To rest, to abandon, to cast down, to settle down, to refrain from interfering
Anapauo | Greek | Verb
To give rest, give intermission from labor; “Take my ease”
Damam | Hebrew | Verb
To cease, to grow still, to be silent, to hold one’s peace
It’s just three little words from two ancient languages, but they paint quite a picture of what rest looks like in real practice. The first thing I notice is that they’re all verbs -- words that denote action. Like I said last week, rest is an intentional act; you must choose rest over other actions if you want it to take place in your life. What’s interesting in these acts, however, is that they’re not really about what is done so much as they’re about what is not done. Notice the phrases here: “settle down, intermission, grow still, cast down, hold peace, refrain from interfering.” The picture here isn’t one of specific action as it is specific inaction. By this description, Rest becomes a matter of what we choose not to do.
What do we not do? Well, if rest creates stillness, quiet, and settledness, then its natural opposite would be agitation, unrest, and chaos. Seems like a no brainer, right? We have to let go of unrest in order to embrace rest, but the letting go is often much harder than it seems. But, why? Why is it so hard to let go of unrest and agitation, when rest is the obvious better choice?
It’s hard because choosing rest requires humility.
There’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say. Rest is hard because rest is an act of humility. As the words attest, we have to cast down whatever it is we’re clinging to so tight. Hands clenched around unnecessary efforts can’t take ease or hold peace. We have to lay down our efforts, to step away, and, at times, to let others carry the load for us. Our pride and self-sufficiency press us to pile on more efforts, but reality demands that we be honest about our need, because letting go of our need to carry everything is the only way to get real rest. We must let go in order to receive. Isaiah 30:15 puts it this way:
“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me. . .”
If we’re desperate for rest, then we must become serious about humility. Push the pride aside, lay down the efforts, and open ourselves up to the peace that comes from stepping back. It may be uncomfortable at first (or maybe every time), but embracing the discomfort of letting go is still far better than living with the tension of clinging so tight. Why not cast down your tensions this year? Why not grow still? Why not take your ease?
Sarah is the co-founder of Bright Ideas, a designer by trade, and an artist by passionate choice. She was born and raised in South, and delights in sharing Southern culture with anyone who cares to learn. Sarah collects creative hobbies; when she isn’t making art, you can usually find her on the dance floor. Follow her creative adventures on Instagram and Twitter!