As a college student, my brain has two settings: on and off. In class my mind is (hopefully) razor-sharp: awake and gathering as much new information as possible. My poor brain is already chock full of knowledge, yet every day I seem to cram just a little more in there. For those of you who have learned anything, you know how exhausting learning can be. Sometimes I take naps in the morning instead of going to chapel – for which I am totally unashamed, by the way. Other times, I get back from Religion class and all I want to do is lock myself in my room with Pintrest and some chocolate. By this point it is difficult for my introverted self to be civil to even my closest friends.
After a while, I just want to turn my brain off. So I do. It is so much easier to live life half asleep. But is this true life? What am I missing out on while my mind puts up the “Do Not Disturb” sign?
Spring Break is the ultimate time to flip the switch off. Bronzing bodies litter the beaches of Florida. First time tourists explore New York, Los Angeles, Nashville. Homesick college students visit the family they haven’t seen since December. It is the time to take a breath, take a walk, take a nap. It is the perfect time to relax. To stop thinking so much. To restore yourself.
But does relaxation equal restoration?
Over Spring Break, I went on a Service-Learning trip to Grand Isle, Louisiana. Originally, I only wanted to go because I had no plans and someone told me I should go. I love service, but ask anyone who knows me well and you’ll find that I am a creature of comfort and habit. I do not like to sweat, I hate feeling dirty, and I’m not especially comfortable around people I don’t know. As the trip got closer, these things crowded my thoughts and I realized my goal for the trip: to push myself outside my comfort zone.
The eighteen plus hour drive was rough. I was meeting people, forcing myself to be social for much of the day. My legs were cramped, it seemed like every time we got back on the road I had to ask for another bathroom break. By bedtime I was ready to crash, but I felt peaceful and content. We finally made it to Louisiana and had the chance to meet Pastor John for the first time. He is a missionary in Grand Isle, we worked closely with him and his church. When we had our first discussion with Pastor John, he emphasized the idea of “island time.” In the south, they operate very differently. Everything is relaxed. Time is not currency on the Bayou. He challenged our group to just relax and enjoy island time while we could.
It was nice to feel unhurried, but a lot of times I found myself getting worked up that we weren’t working fast enough. If we were going to work, I wanted to work hard. I was ready to jump in and immerse myself. The first day of work, we left the church two hours later than we had planned on. When we got to the work site, we worked haphazardly for an hour or two before taking a lunch break. Pastor John told us the story of the church and of their work on the Bayou. I could clearly see his deep love and passion for ministry and for people. The time I spent listening impacted me greatly, but I had to constantly fight the urge to leave the table and get back to work.
I found myself identifying with a certain story… A story about a woman who was visited by an important man. She busied herself in the kitchen preparing a feast for the man and his followers. At the same time, the woman’s younger sister sat at the feet of this important man, enthralled to listen to him speak. She marveled at his wisdom and lost herself in his presence. The older sister became irritated that she was the only one working, so she complained to the man and asked him to scold her sister. But the man, in his wisdom, replied: “You are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. [Your sister] has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”*
Like the older sister that I am, I get worked up and irritated when I’m the only person who seems to care if the work gets done. This unhealthy attitude drains energy and leads to exhaustion. Life cannot be measured by what is accomplished in it, what really matters is the soul and spiritual livelihood of the person. I cannot perform at full capacity all the time, but nothing restores life to the body and joy to the heart like true rest.
Rest does not always equal relaxation. Rest is not self-focused or passive. Rest is a mind that is awake, open, and learning. Rest is a quiet, unhurried heart. Rest is the foundation of an extraordinary life.
Rest has become an essential part of my day. I try to take several minutes to be completely silent. Quiet. Present. I want to drop everything and feel myself being restored and renewed. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I read the Bible. Sometimes I just enjoy the silence. No matter whether the time is short or long, I carry that rest with me throughout the day. My whole life becomes more peaceful. More importantly, it becomes focused on the Truth from which all things grow and prosper… Love.
It took some island time for me to figure out what true, active rest looks like. How do you find rest? Comment below! I’d love to hear your feedback.
Thanks for reading, I’m going to try to post once a week now (on Sunday), so keep your eyes open!
*To find this story, read Luke 11:38-42. (My translation is NLT)