Resting in Grace
On Holy Rest & Winter Blues
This year (all seven weeks of it) has felt like a long hibernation, a dormant season where inspiration collapses beneath a deep blanket of snow. I’ve read and rested, and felt the need for rest along with the accompanying guilt that comes with the resting. Some people kick off the new year with a list of resolutions and goals. I begin it in slumber, low expectations, and very little incentive to begin again after a lengthy season of baking, visiting, and gift-giving.
We writers love words like fallow, a rich word that speaks of possibility, a reminder even in the appearance of stagnation and death, growth and life happens below the surface. This week I told my therapist I feel like I’m beginning to thaw, to find my creative mojo again. She reminded me of the cliche-but-true metaphor of cyclical seasons, how even nature doesn’t work or grow year long. Perhaps winter is the best reminder to return to the good work of rest.
The Good Work of Rest
I’ve been slowly making my way through the BEMA Podcast, which takes its listeners through the context, history, and Hebraic understanding of the Torah. It’s thorough and imaginative and I’m continuously stunned by the simple but incredibly beautiful explanations of scripture and the ways midrash can better lead us into imaginative questioning instead of unwavering certainty.
An early episode highlights the beginning, the very first verses we easily take for granted and build entire scientific models from. The host, Marty Solomon, focuses on the seventh day and the idea of rest. We often hear this as a prooftext for the importance of attending Sunday services. But they go deeper. Why is it important that a deity rests? Why is an entire day devoted to resting?
God rested to remind us of our inherent worth that is not contingent on the work we do or the ways we labor. We are worthy and beloved simply because we are. The concept of rest affirms within the foundation of an ancient faith the significance of human life. We bear God’s image and he declares us to be very good. We are beloved because we exist. Our work does not make us valuable. Rest is not lazy, but an integral component of our ontological makeup.
This is a difficult concept for us to wrap our heads around, even for Christians. We hear the story of Mary and Martha and encourage one another to be more like Mary, to rest and converse and allow the dishes to pile up. And yet, we expect so much from one another to physically labor in a show of service. Sometimes service and neighbor love is presence, listening ears, a willingness to avoid messes or work in order to meet one another in holy camaraderie.
Resting in Grace
I’m reminded of the tail end of Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things: “I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” We are beings in need of rest, but not so we can continue churning out productivity. Rest reminds us to slow down, to absorb creation, to get lost in conversation, to take a nap.
Perhaps in this season of winter blues and heavy snow (at least in my neck of the woods), when spring seems far off and creativity trickles like a mostly frozen stream, we can accept rest for the gift it is. If God rested, perhaps that’s all the encouragement we need.
Loving + Savoring
The BEMA Discipleship Podcast referenced above. I recommend starting at the beginning and working through each episode as time allows.
My conversation with Michael of The Nehemiah Collective Podcast dropped today. We talked about faith and deconstruction, writing and imagination. I hope you’ll be encouraged by it!
Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood, a short but incredibly beautiful book on atonement theory, but more importantly “a nonviolent understanding of the atonement that is not only thoroughly biblical, but will help people struggling with their faith to encounter grace.”