The following article is taken from chapter 14 of The Convivial Homeschool: Gospel Encouragement for Keeping Your Sanity While Living and Learning Alongside Your Kids, Mystie’s first full, paperback book – now available here.
Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety.Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest
I am not a very good napper. Occasionally I will attempt a power nap, and I do find they work best when I use earplugs and an eye-mask. The trouble is that to take a nap you have to consciously pause midday. I have a hard time with that.
The older moms I admire take naps. They aren’t trying to prove themselves or do it all. They aren’t so proud or so stressed that they can’t take a needed break. Falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day, or even crawling into bed at 3 p.m. for a much-needed nap, is not a sign you’re doing something wrong.
It’s just a sign you’re doing something. You’re investing your life, which is what it’s for. As humans, rest is not something we earn as a reward for achievement; it is the culminating gift of creation.
For Christians, rest is a present reality because we are in Christ, Who has already earned rest and is now seated at God’s right hand. Sleep is a daily picture of our dependence on our Creator and our Savior; if that picture needs to be shown twice a day, so much the better.
Because God never slumbers or sleeps, we can. Because God has the whole world in His hand, we don’t need to be fearful or anxious. We can rest.
Sometimes I will think about taking a nap when I feel tired midday, but I often go for more coffee instead. That’s not usually the right choice. Sometimes, it’s not physical tiredness that drags me down. It’s mental or emotional overload. Physical rest helps with those, but I need spiritual rest more than physical when I’m approaching burnout.
Although we feel tiredness in our bodies, our souls also get frayed and neglected. Our souls need care as well as our bodies. Souls are not mended by physical means, but by spiritual means.
When you feel the need for rest and renewal, remember that neither come through indulgence. Chocolate, shopping, and spa days are not where our hope and joy and restoration come from, no matter what the magazines say.
The difference between indulgence and rest isn’t always visible. Taking a nap could be either. Our hearts make all the difference. A selfish, complaining heart cannot receive rest, no matter what we do.
One Saturday afternoon, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, sorry for myself, and stuck. I wanted off the ferris wheel of laundry, dishes, and mopping. I wanted no one to talk to me. I wanted no one to need me.
My husband was home and happy to let me go “run errands,” so away I went, trying to escape my own bad attitude.
The problem was that my attitude went with me. In a different place, I could change the focus of my mind, though. I stopped at a store. I took my time browsing.
I spent three hours away from it all, doing whatever. On a whim, I even had my nails done. As soon as I walked in the door, all my previous responses rushed back in on me. I had escaped nothing. I had hit a pause button, maybe, but even that hadn’t been much of a pause.
Although I’d told myself that I was getting away so I could come back refreshed, I had received no refreshment. Although I’d told myself that a break was all I needed, I learned that a break doesn’t solve an attitude problem.
I started doing the dishes begrudgingly after I came home and I realized that what I had wanted was to come home and have all my work done for me. As I washed those dishes, the Spirit met me with conviction.
Conviction and repentance had to come before I could actually get any rest, before I could catch a spiritual break. The work required to stand before God had been done for me. Now I needed to wash the dishes gratefully, in love and service, not to try to get out of the work just because the most important work wasn’t mine.
My polish chipped. My heart was restored. I was brought low so that I could be made right. I enjoy a pedicure and a shopping trip as much as anyone, but it’s not having or not hav- ing either that matters. It’s only if I’m already right with God and my family, if I’m grateful rather than grumpy, that such things are fun and relaxing.
We derive our satisfaction from Christ, and in Him we can enjoy good things as gifts without looking to them for relief. When we forget that we are souls, spiritual beings in need of spiritual things, we go looking in all the wrong places for the restoration we know we need.
In the Bible, God tells us what will bring us rest and peace in Him: Go to church every Sunday. Read the Bible and pray. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Give thanks in all things. Repent of unkindness, pride, and irritability. Love others. Rejoice always. If all that sounds unreasonable, then we must also repent of our unbelief.
Basically, we have to trust God and believe that He knows what He’s talking about when He tells us these things. We can’t claim to need something more than or different from what God says we need. He made us; He knows.
God has a lot to say about rest, which means we have a lot to learn about it. Rest is a major theme of Scripture, so we shouldn’t be surprised when our need for it is a major theme of our lives.
The culminating day of creation was a day of rest. The end of the exodus and desert wandering was supposed to be rest in the promised land. Jesus, as the final and true Israel, accomplished that triumphant rest for His people in His resurrection and ascension after His perfect life and atoning death. The Creation will ultimately culminate, as the new heavens and earth, in an eternal day of rest—and we, because we are in Christ, will share in that rest.
It is to foreshadow this promised rest that the New Testament day of worship, a day of rest, is the first day of the week rather than the last. We are no longer looking forward to a salvation to come, but resting in a salvation accomplished and bestowed, working that given salvation out into the corners of our weekday lives.
Homeschooling will use us up, but that is not a bad thing. The Bible does not say “He who takes time for himself will be watered,” but rather “one who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:25). Jesus did not take time to be by Himself in some sort of self-centered introverted retreat; rather, He took time to be with God and pray.
He was poured out as a drink offering, and we are to imitate Him. We are to pour out from our pitchers like the widow who housed Elijah. We don’t seek to fill our own empty jars; we pour out in faith that God is the One with the endless supply, with the ability to turn water to wine and make empty jugs full, so they can keep pouring out for the feeding of others.
We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The lie we too often believe is that enjoying God is not possible or enough. But when we seek Him, He lets us find Him; He gives us Himself. When we live in line with and in light of our created purpose, we find true rest, true delight, and true care.
So we respond in faith, even nap in faith, putting our trust not in our plan or in our time alone or in ourselves, but in the Good Shepherd, Who leads us beside still waters and restores our soul. When we do, we find that the Shepherd cares for our souls and does a much better job than we ever could.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Homeschool days can be long and hard. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually happening in the midst of the day to day. Even when we lose our vision, God does not lose His. While we attempt to teach and disciple our children, we find that it is ourselves needing the instruction and discipleship. We also find that God provides both, using our decision to homeschool to draw us closer to Himself. To continue with love and perseverance, we need confidence not in our work but in God’s. These thirty readings will lift up your eyes and spirit so you can focus on what truly matters while doing the daily work of educating your kids.
“This volume is a wonderful resource of wisdom for moms everywhere who struggle and wonder if they are doing enough.” —Cindy Rollins, author of Mere Motherhood