When was the last time you gave yourself permission to rest? Not just a 20-minute power nap or a night of zoning out in front of Netflix, but an intentionally chosen time of setting aside your list of obligations and responsibilities, unplugging from technology, and letting yourself really rest—the kind of rest that involves body, mind, and spirit?
We Americans are not a people who are good at rest. We seem to define ourselves by how busy we are, and we tend to equate resting with laziness. Most of us can’t even leave our work email behind on whatever vacations we manage to squeeze in. Between back-to-school and back-to-Congress and the end of the marginally slower pace of summer, September is perhaps one of the least restful months of the year.
But rest is vital. I would even argue that human beings were created to rest. In the Genesis account of creation, Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, and the seventh day was a day of rest. So the very first thing human beings did was rest. The were created, they rested—and then they worked. The work flowed out of the rest; the rest wasn’t an escape from the work. And this wasn’t just a one-time deal; God commanded his people to observe this weekly day of rest, a reminder that we are creatures who don’t have to find our worth through our work but can rest in the worth given to us by our loving God.
Regular rhythms of rest are vital to our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. But sometimes, even those rhythms aren’t enough. Sometimes we need more. I was reminded of this during a Rock Recovery group session recently. One of the clients was sharing about how tired she had been recently. She wasn’t feeling depressed; she was going to work and school and meeting her other obligations, and she was excited about things that were happening in her life. She was just tired. It was beautiful to see the other clients affirm her in her need for rest, for extra sleep, for the things that would be rejuvenating for her. They pointed out that she was experiencing a lot of transition in her life—and they acknowledged that transition is tiring. Their encouragement helped her extend to herself the grace she needed to honor her body’s need for rest.
People in the midst of recovery from disordered eating are constantly in a state of transition as they leave behind their old ways of dealing with food and life and begin to embrace new, healthier ones. Learning to rest thus becomes a key element in their journey to freedom.
The importance of rest for the journey to freedom isn’t true only for those in recovery, though; it’s true for all of us. We all have habits, behaviors, and beliefs that hinder us from experiencing the fullness of the freedom God offers to us. The journey toward embracing more of that freedom can be a tiring one. But if we learn to accept the gift of rest, we’ll find that we have more than just added strength for the journey. We’ll have the chance, again and again, to remember that freedom isn’t something we have to earn or accomplish; it’s a gift, freely given by the God who created us for rest.
Erin Bair joined the Rock Recovery team as its first chaplain in the fall of 2015. She is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and has previously served in parish ministry and hospital chaplaincy. Having known many people affected by disordered eating, Erin is grateful to get to support Rock Recovery’s clients, helping them to know the freedom that God’s love and grace offers them. Erin grew up in Georgia and attended college and divinity school in Boston. Nine years into living in the DC area, she’s convinced she’s found the best of both worlds. In addition to working with Rock Recovery, Erin is a speaker and retreat leader and is training to be a spiritual director. In her free time, she loves to read, cook, hike, and spend as much time as possible in Arizona with her nieces and nephew.