Updated: May 16, 2020
I love Christmastime. For me, it really is as the song goes: the most wonderful time of the year.
But with holidays come expectations. From others, from myself, it doesn't matter. Each one places a tiny weight on my shoulders. Imperceptible on its own; together, exhausting.
All of these little expectations, combined with the many other recent changes & new responsibilities in my life, suddenly culminated after Thanksgiving weekend.
I bawled my eyes out last Tuesday.
It was one of those moments where your body is so jacked up on stress that it can't function. I came home Tuesday afternoon and lay down on the sofa. My whole body was tense. I couldn't relax, but I was so tired that I couldn't get up either. Which added more to my stress because I had a list of things that I wanted to get done.
I was still there when my husband got home. By that point I felt sick but couldn't pinpoint why. Finally, curled up in a ball on his lap, I managed to get myself to cry.
I've heard that crying allows your body's chemicals to balance back out. I believe it. I always feel better after I cry, whether it's out of sadness or extreme joy. There's something settling about releasing those tears; a calm that comes.
That doesn't mean I was "all better" when I finished crying.
I had built up enough stress over the course of the long weekend that it took me a few more days to start to feel normal again. Wednesday I was so wiped out that I didn't leave the house and only completed a few minor tasks. But I didn't let my lack of accomplishment bother me.
I needed to rest.
Understanding the importance of rest can be difficult, especially through the lens of American culture. The "American dream" is built on the foundation of always being on the go, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and working hard until you achieve your goal.
While independence and hard work is a very good thing, it's not everything.
Some people need longer periods of rest than others do. A lot of that is based on how we're created and the type of personality God has gifted us with. But we all benefit from stopping our constant motion and giving ourselves a break on a regular basis.
Dictionary.com defines "rest" as "refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor... a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquility... cessation or absence of motion."
It sounds exactly like what we need during the busiest time of the year! It's easy to overburden ourselves by scheduling more activities than we can handle. But rest is a necessity for a healthy life, both physically and spiritually.
There are many reminders in the Bible telling us how valuable it is for us to stop and rest.
In Genesis 2:2-3, God rests as an example for us, even though He is all-powerful and doesn't need to rest. "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."
In Exodus 33:14 it says, "The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'"
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'"
And Jesus encourages his disciples to rest in Mark 6:31; "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'"
God encourages rest.
I have to remind myself of that often, as I'm not keen on sitting myself down to relax. There's always a never-ending to-do list or chores that need completed. (There always will be.) There's always someone else I want to meet up with. (There always will be.) There's always a new activity that sounds really fun. (There always will be.)
When it feels like the speed of life moves faster and faster each year, I begin to feel like I don't have enough time in the day/week/month/year to do everything I need or want to do.
Most of the things I squeeze into my schedule are good things, don't get me wrong. People are important and getting work done is important.
But God says that rest is important, too.
I've begun scheduling "Rest" into our calendar. My husband and I use an app on our phones that allows us to see and edit each other's calendars, which is really useful for us. We are able to color-code our specific calendars to tell apart his work, my work, his activities, my activities, and more.
I created another color for our times to rest. And let me tell you, seeing that purple block on the schedule is a huge relief for me. Without it, our entire week would probably be full of activities back-to-back. Based on my body's reaction last week, I wouldn't be able to handle that.
It's fine to not be able to do everything you want to do.
I have to remind myself of that often, too. It's hard to realize that you can't accomplish everything you'd like to. It's hard to realize that there are some friends you just won't get to see as often (but your friendship doesn't have to suffer for it). It's hard to realize that doing nothing is good for you.
Doing nothing is good for you.
Because it's in that time of rest that you heal. It's in that time that your body can settle and the stress melts away. It's in that time that your mind can do less work and enjoy more. The distractions that keep us busy all day become insignificant as we remember Who asks us to rest and that we can turn to Him with the burdens of the day.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
This is the truth I'm resting in this Christmas season.