By: Emily Meeks
She pulls a blue envelope about the size of a business card out of her purse and hands it to me. “Remember?” she says as we stand between pews. I am confused at first until I see the words on the envelope: Emily Meeks 2021 intention.
Each new year my friend holds a gathering and invites friends to think of a private intention. She provides a note card to write the intention, seal it in an envelope, and place it into a jar. During the gathering of the next year, she shares the envelopes back. We can choose to reopen and consider how the words showed up in our lives. With COVID, this practice has morphed and shifted to accommodate restrictions.
I take a deep breath trying to remember where I was a year ago – who I was a year ago. Inside, I see the orange card with my handwriting: to stop fighting rest and embrace its renewing qualities.
Rest. I quickly feel the tension build. What is my resistance to a word so integral to Jesus’ ministry?
This year I have not gotten eight hours of sleep many nights nor perfected an afternoon nap. I have, however, become more aware of different forms of rest, such as those found in the gospels — of Jesus withdrawing to be alone (Luke 5:16), going into closed rooms to pray (Matthew 6:6), and even sleeping outside of “normal” hours (Matthew 8:24).
I have struggled with the concept of rest because I have only measured it in hours in a bed or on a couch idle. I have considered rest only as time earned after the work is done. How can you rest in that equation if you never pause the to-do list?
There are three ways that are helping me understand that rest has multiple dimensions: scheduling unscheduled time, connecting to the holy in everyday moments, and reframing rest as part of the journey.
Scheduling unscheduled time. In my calendar I now block in time called “BE” – time that cannot be scheduled for something other than what refills me – reading, writing, making cards – and creates space for my brain to rest. If a conflict comes up, the calendar hold reminds me to find a new time to ensure it stays. It is time that I don’t have to be anywhere other than connecting with God in however Spirit moves.
Connecting to the holy in everyday moments. If I have an early conference call and want to sleep longer, spacious time for quiet and prayer can disappear. Instead of seeing this as “failure,” I am open to micro moments to spend time with God in other parts of my day– a walk around the block to see what’s growing in the raised beds, standing at the window to notice birds forming a leaf and branch into a nest, or arriving at a service early to be mesmerized by the flowing water of the baptismal font.
Reframing rest as part of the journey. Recently I attended a program on Celtic Spirituality. We learned about forms of prayer – loricas and caims – that bring forth everyday experiences and thresholds. The priest invited us to try writing a prayer with these styles in mind. I pondered, if sleep could be a threshold, could it also be part of my journey with God?
I come to this night reluctant to rest
Help me to see sleep as a journey, not a dead end
You will lead, if I will start
Guide my turns
Mark my waypoints
Navigate my dreams
Refill me with energy
Help me to trust there will be time
In quiet and rest, I will return
to see the unfolding of morning light
to start a new path
renewed, restored and present in You
Much like a track workout requires intervals of recovery for the body to recalibrate, our spiritual journeys cannot operate at race pace continually. This year, I would like to tweak the intention slightly – integrate rest into the journey and embrace the renewing presence of the Holy. May we remember to make time to rest in the recovery laps – it’s part of training too.
Emily Meeks loves finding adventure and connection outside, especially while running, biking, hiking and kayaking. She attends and serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.