Updated: Dec 23, 2019
As a chronic overachiever (just one of my many delightful qualities), “rest” has never come easily to me. I've always been driven. The word "unmotivated" has rarely been used to describe me. As I have been pressed and stretched in my faith over the last several years, I have had to unlearn some bad lifelong habits; they're the kinds of patterns that emerge from intertwining my worth with my achievements and striving constantly to prove to myself, to my husband, kids, and everyone else I know - my value. For the vast majority of my life, I couldn't rest because I was so focused on earning that which I could never earn. And I couldn't rest because I was so focused on myself.
This idea is a bit counter-intuitive because we typically think of the people who can't rest as being hardworking and maybe even selfless. In contrast, we think of rest as self-focused; the need to take a day off, and put one's feet up and just enjoy him or herself. Rest almost feels selfish in our culture.
But how could the problem be that I was thinking too much of myself if I was always busy? Wasn't I putting the needs of everyone else - my family, my job, (even God), before my own? Wasn't I being self-less?
The problem is that all of my efforts to work hard and do for others, were simply just a reflection of my need to do for myself. To see myself through the right lens, I had to stop and see God first. I had to see His glory, so I could see my rags...and finally stop moving my feet for long enough to receive His beautiful gift of grace. But my rags, my greatest accomplishments and successes, no longer inspired me once I saw them in the light of who He is; and as I saw God, I understood my need. I finally understood that only God can do for me what I can never do for myself. Only He exchanges my sin and shame and makes me beautiful and right in His eyes.
Authentic rest grows out of a soil of steady trust in the love and faithfulness of God, the One who exchanges rags for beauty. I am His beloved and He is my provision. He doesn't want me to spend my minutes and hours and days working for what He has already given me. He wants me to quiet my soul and trust Him enough to cease from my endless striving. I used to look for evidence of God’s love everywhere, rather than remembering that He already proved His love by sending His son to a cross for my sin.
I rest when I know deep down in my soul that God has already given me everything I need.