Author: Nicole Speer
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~Matthew 11:28-29
As we approach the end of this surreal and exhausting year, I have been thinking a lot about rest. Rest is something everyone seems to need right now, but no one seems able to find.
A few weeks ago, I decided to gather some data on what rest means to me by trying to understand when I feel most at ease and when I feel most weary. I started paying attention to my body and its energy as I moved through the events of my day. I asked myself questions such as:
When does my energy drop? When does it rise?
When does my anxiety increase? When does it lessen?
Which tasks am I struggling to complete? Which tasks can I not wait to begin?
Which conversations leave me unfocused and distracted? Which conversations leave me smiling and full of joy?
After weeks of data collection and self-reflection, I learned what Matthew had already told me: I find rest when I am doing the work Jesus told me to do.
I find rest in the committee work that sustains our congregation. I find rest supporting the work of our local branch of the NAACP. I find rest co-creating a space where my marginalized colleagues feel welcomed and valued in our work. I find rest connecting with the people and organizations in our community who are helping our neighbors in need of food, shelter, and healthcare. I find rest exchanging knowledge and skills with others. And I find rest in all the ways we worship together as a faith community.
My soul seems to recognize that the more I submit to my commandment to love God and to love my neighbor as myself, the more rest I find. The work of bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice is hard but ignoring my Christian commitment to follow the teachings of Jesus is harder, by far. In the same way my children feel better when they go to bed on time rather than arguing with me for 30 minutes about why they should not have bedtimes, I feel better when I stop making excuses for my inaction and simply follow the instructions of the one who was sent to teach us how to strengthen our relationship to God.
As I have been reflecting on the unexpected role of my faith in finding the secret to rest, I have realized that the life I am living stopped belonging to me when I embraced the Christian faith and committed to being the body of Christ in this world. As a person of faith, I cannot sit on the sidelines when God has opened my eyes to the scope of injustice and suffering in our society. Our world is sick. God has placed us here to heal. My rest lies in knowing I am playing my part in building the Beloved Community.
Eternal God, thank you for blessing us with the burden of your love. Help us embrace our yokes and commit to doing our share of the work to build the just, compassionate world you envision for us. Amen.