Radical Rest

We all dream of holidays. This photo was taken from a wonderful holiday of mine. We all fantasise about exotic escapes, island getaways, country retreats or just a quiet break at home. For those of us who holiday once a year, there is a distinct feeling of weary anticipation as the year nears its end. Everything in our bodies longs for rest.

But what if we didn’t wait till the end of the year? What if we rested before we desperately needed a holiday, before our bodies were ready to give way? What if we practised preemptive resting or resting more regularly throughout the year? What about preventative resting?

What if we rested before we desperately needed a holiday?

The chronically ill community, especially those living with ME (what used to be known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), have a term for this: radical resting. This is the notion of resting prior to planned exertion, knowing they will need recovery time post-exertion as well*.

I already do this in living with lupus. I think of it as preemptive resting. I have church this weekend and I want to be able to go, so I’m going to spend the next few days resting rather than going out. I conserve energy before Sunday because it’s important.

Those of us who live with chronic illnesses often do radical resting just to survive. But this skill is a gift we can offer the rest of our community. There is much society can learn from the principles of radical resting.

There is much society can learn from radical resting.

We can rest before we crash and burn.

We can rest before we take out our stress on others.

We can rest at the first signs of tiredness, stress or irritability, rather than letting them snowball on us.

We can even learn from God’s example. When he created the universe, he spent six days working and then rested on the seventh day.

Why did he rest? Was he tired from creating the universe? Did he need to recuperate?

I don’t think God gets tired. I think he was role modelling a way for us to live. He was inviting us into a rhythm of work interspersed with rest, not because we earned it (as though one is not permitted to rest until one has worked) but because rest is how he created us to live.

I think God was role modelling a way for us to live.

If we belong to God, we inherit this rhythm of work and rest. We don’t have to pack our days with busyness. We don’t have to overfill our schedules. God has demonstrated the importance of rest, not just as a way of recovering energy, but as a way to exist. It’s who we are.

Rest is still a countercultural idea in our busy society. Productivity and usefulness are highly valued, often at the expense of our wellbeing. So those of us who intentionally rest are engaging in acts of resistance.

Rest is still a countercultural idea.

We are the rebels. We resist the pressure to do, to hustle, to produce, to prove ourselves. We choose wellness, recovery, rhythms of resting in God. We choose to follow the example of an omnipotent being who, for all his power and glory, chose to rest.

Want to be a game changer, a pioneer, a trendsetter? Choose radical rest.

How easy do you find it to rest? Is there anything that gets in the way of resting, even when you are sick or tired? How does God’s example of rest inspire you? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.

*http://www.meaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Pacing-and-Management-Guide-for-ME_CFS-9.pdf

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