I remember being so weary, so tired. There was so much to do. So much to do, in fact, that it seemed a monumental task just to decide what to do.
My fatigue was compounded by the fact that most of my “so much to do” was made of small, menial, basic tasks.
There were dishes in the sink, crumbs on the floor, laundry everywhere. There were meals to make, which would mean more kitchen clean-up and more dishes – not to mention the decision of what to make and then the making.
Sprinkled throughout the ho-hum hill of tasks were dirty diapers, needy hands, feet that made haste to empty every reachable surface.
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There was clearly no hope of a finish line, even if I got up and got busy. So why bother?
It’s a good thing that was before Instagram and Facebook (at least in my life). As it was, I only draped myself limply across the couch and read books.
This was not rest.
This was sloth.
I did not feel better after an afternoon thus spent. I felt worse. I had neglected my duty and indulged my selfish pettiness in lazy indolence.
Eventually, something would motivate me – often my husband’s imminent arrival home from work. I’d let rip with a frenzied tidying and suddenly have a dinner inspiration. Working under pressure seemed to galvanize my resolve and spark my energy.
Somehow, I felt better in this mode, and because I had already slandered and disrespected the work itself, I attributed it to the adrenaline of working to a deadline and trying to squeeze the most productivity out of the least amount of time.
But the truth was that in those moments I was also doing the work I was supposed to be doing. I was doing my duty.
It was the deadline pressure that got me off the couch, but it was the work that lifted my spirits, even though at the time I did not realize or acknowledge it.
“It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.” — Elisabeth Elliot
Picking up the same book and reclining on the same couch after the laundry was put away, after the dishes were done, after the laundry was folded, was a completely different experience. I looked the same. I was doing the same thing.
Yet one was rest and one was sloth.
The difference was not in the act nor the setting, but in the work.
Too often the rest we take does not refresh us. We don’t feel rested after taking a break, after doing something fun.
Let me suggest, ever so gently, as a lesson learned from my own life: The rest won’t be rest until the work is tackled with a good will.
The rest we want is not actually a physical relief, it is a mental and emotional one. So we turn to a novel or a friend or Instagram or chocolate. Yet these only submerge the underlying stress, and that is not relief. We should not be surprised when we are not refreshed after simply ignoring our stress.
The relief comes in dealing with it.
Put the house in order, even just one corner. See some progress. Fulfill some part of your duty.
Pray and give God your stress and trust His providence. Pray and repent of mismanagement and sloth or of control and anger. Repentance then must turn to virtue, to doing what we ought.
It’s not that we shouldn’t rest until all our work is complete. Most of our work is never completed, never finished. When we’re in discouragement mode we use that as an excuse to never start.
Rather, we use our time for the glory of God and do what we can to serve Him by serving our families and our communities, then we rejoice in the rest He provides: meal times, Sundays, evenings, quiet mornings in prayer or on a walk.
The opportunities for rest are there, but we won’t see them or enjoy them unless we’re digging into our daily work honestly and cheerfully.
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