A blog post about rest came across my Facebook feed today. It was reposted by Northfield Christian Fellowship, the church where I currently attend. Rest isn’t something that we talk about much, and it certainly isn’t something that I think about, considering that “downtime” in our family at this stage is a pure luxury. There’s always something to do, whether it be shuttling kids around, chasing them down to make sure they’ve done their homework, formulating a mental checklist for the following day, making dinner, cleaning up, signing permission slips, feeding the pets, cleaning the gutters, or working on that bathroom downstairs that’s been torn up for three months. Rest? I find that sitting down only brings to mind something else I should be doing at that particular moment besides sitting down.
Where did this nagging sensation come from? When did I start to feel guilty for sitting down to watch a football game or take a nap on the weekend? More importantly, if I can’t sit down and relax, how do I rest?
Parents put so many lofty expectations on themselves. I speak of this from firsthand experience. We live in an age where, when something involving a child goes horribly wrong, the first question everybody asks is “where were the parents in all this?” I’ve done it myself. While I’ve never thought of myself as the dreaded “helicopter parent”, I do tend to try to control our environment in a way to give my kids the best opportunities for future success. We lock down our computers. We set viewing rules for television. We try to screen movies and TV shows (YouTube content proves more of a challenge) prior to letting the kids view them. We nag about homework. We nag about personal hygiene. We nag about chores. We synchronize calendars. We follow academic progress online – sometimes daily. Some of these things were our proactive ideas, others came about as a reaction to the kids not correctly prioritizing things or to over-indulgence. There are other things, too. More subtle things, like trying to surround them with positive influences and role-models. Like encouraging physical activity over reading, or reading over television, or quiet-time when arguments get physical. What do all of these things have in common? They all contribute to our attempts to control. Not control our children, necessarily, but control the kinds of future opportunities they’ll have due to formed habits and decision-making abilities. Paradoxically, it’s our job, but it’s also a bit of an illusion. Nobody knows the future, and putting our kids in the best possible situation isn’t the same as guaranteeing happiness. It’s just the best we can do. We aren’t God, as much as we try to play Him.
So, back to resting. Why can’t I rest? Because no matter what I decide to do to rest, afterwards the kids will still need to finish that science project, or the bathroom will still need painting, or that permission slip will still need to be signed. Can you rest in the middle of a hurricane? It’s like trying to put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole.
This is where the post really spoke to me. Resting isn’t about sitting down for two hours to watch ESPN, only to return to the same problems and worries when the game is over. True rest is taking a break from trying to be God. Admitting that I can’t control everything. Giving it up, and allowing him to be in charge. Leaning on Him and admitting my weakness.
In one sense, these words are a huge relief. In another, they are incredibly difficult and scary. I like the illusion of control. It makes me feel safe.
We’re bombarded every day with self-help life-hacks, secrets to success and the promise of reaching our true potential through our own sheer will and positive attitudes. I don’t know about you, but after a day of nagging four kids to accomplish a goal as simple as brushing teeth, my attitude isn’t usually very positive! While these aren’t bad attributes, there are limits to what I can do through attitude and determination. I must learn to lean on one without limits. I need to stop pretending that I’m Him. Only then, will I be able to truly rest again.