November, though cold, is one of my favorite months of the year. I don’t know what it is about its chilly introduction to winter, but I really do love it. Life seems to slow down in November. There’s an increased desire to stay inside with the people I love. The distractions and activities that I’m usually involved in in the warmer months of the year finally come to a close. And while I love going outdoors and being goosebump-free, I love the time that this month gives me to reflect. Sometimes I go and go and go so much that I lose what I really need, and what I really need around this time of year is rest.
It’s kind-of a shameful thing to admit these days, isn’t it? Our society is so persistent in keeping us busy, distracted, and on the go, that saying one needs rest is somewhat embarrassing. We are expected to keep up, say yes to every opportunity, attend every single gathering, and somehow still keep the peace. And to be transparent, I’m really bad at that last part and really good at the over-exhausting myself part. So at the end of the day, I have to ask myself what being busy gets me. I feel like I’m accomplishing a lot, giving a lot, and being all things to all people, but I’m really just giving fragments of myself to people who could really use all of me.
For the past couple of months, I have been handing out the fragments. I’ve been too busy thinking about what I have to do the following day to engage in conversations. I’ve been too busy looking at my watch knowing I have to be somewhere in the next hour to really savor the moment I’m in. I’m missing all the beautiful details that I normally adore and thank God for. I’m focused on the big mishaps instead of treasuring the little things that used to bring me heart-bursting joy. Busyness clouds my vision.
I have to keep reminding myself that even God himself rested. He, in all his might and power and endless strength, rested, and he commands us to rest too (Ex. 20:8–11). So, I really need to slow down and be more like him. To really look up, really connect, really accept that I need to rest in order to be fully present, fully me.
So how do we find rest when our culture glorifies being busy? How do we find the time to rest when we have demanding jobs, or children to raise, or things that simply must get done?
It will probably look different for everyone, but for me, slowing down and finding rest in this season will begin with prayer. I have to admit that I am not very good at setting aside time to pray. And while it’s true that my mind wanders very easily when in prayer, if I were to get to the heart of the problem, it’s that I prioritize other things above it. And while I know that God hears and attends to my short prayers in the car or my prayers as I’m frantically trying to get six 2-year-olds to sleep at the same time, I really need intentional prayer time.
C.S. Lewis said it best when he said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.” When I pray, God removes the mud from my eyes so that I can see him, myself, and my life more clearly again. It teaches me how to say no to things that are getting in the way of more important things. It teaches me how to pay attention to what’s going on around me rather than be absentminded. It teaches me how to be at rest in a world that is go, go, go.
In addition to prayer, I want to get back in the habit of writing down what I’m thankful for. I used to do it almost every day (emphasis on the used to) and it became a very tangible way for me to recognize God's gifts and actually set aside the time to commune with him and thank him. I wanted to be like the psalmist who couldn't help but pour out his praises (Ps. 103:1–5) as I opened up my journal in the evenings. Even the really not-so-great days had strands of goodness hidden in them once I looked. And with Thanksgiving approaching, there’s no better time than now to start jotting down the things I’m most thankful for and to altogether stop doing the things that don’t amount to much in the long run.
Maybe that means making more time for friends and family and less time for mindless internet searching. Maybe that means turning my phone off for part of the day and not being so self- and other people-absorbed. Maybe that means more Bible time and less book time (ouch!). Maybe that means attending the work Christmas party because it’s important to Michael, but bailing before the employees awkwardly start dancing with each other.
We don’t have to commit to everything. We don’t have to attend every gathering. We don’t have to be the best, make the most, or look the greatest. No, none of those things lead to rest. Rather, they keep us running from one thing to the next, tempting us to outdo our neighbor and prove our own worth.
It's gratitude that stills our souls. It turns our gaze from the stress of what’s been left undone by our feeble, human hands and sets our eyes on what Christ has already accomplished through his death and resurrection. And that is something to rest in this season.
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