It has been several weeks now and I keep hearing the imperative that I “get some rest”. It is as if it’s a quest that I should be on; a search for something that seems to be elusive. It is, stated that way, a job to be done and a goal to be achieved.
My experience over this time is that it is not sought; it finds me. It tracks me down and can’t be escaped. When I don’t expect it rest comes and curls in my lap like a cat slinking away from a draft. I can sit with a cup of coffee and soon drift off. I wake with unspilled coffee and heavy eyes. It is ineluctable.
I have a great compassion for those who cannot sleep. It must be a terror. To lie waiting for sleep that will not come when it is needed has something of a living hell feel to it, and the number of times that the Psalms drag us into that perdition tells us of the great issues of life and death, and that is the guilt and remorse that take away rest. ” For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:”(Psalm 34a) sounds like a clinical description of insomnia and it all deals with guilt.
The Gospels go on about rest. Jesus needs rest but pushes on preaching and healing to the point where his family thinks he has had a breakdown. When Jesus wants the disciples awake they sleep. Jesus says he will give us rest and his yoke is easy. Later on in the Bible Jesus is called our Sabbath Rest. That is a lot to unpack but it is well worth the effort. Rest comes from a simple word spoken – “your sins are forgiven”. Rest comes from the good story of God’s love for us and desire to give us rest in Christ by his death on a cross.
Martin Luther puzzled through the idea of rest and struggle. His hard work as a monk got him insomnia. Working his fingers to the bone got him bony fingers. Working at “what his hands found to do” for shear joy brought the unique translation of Psalm 127 that God cares for all things and blesses “even when we sleep.” In one of his last sermons Luther’s many illnesses caused him to cut his sermon short but he proclaimed Christ is our rest and it is the ultimate rest. It comes through issues and sickness and pain and trials but it comes like a cat curling up to escape a draft. It comes unsought and gently. The burdens which would be unbearable for the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit become for God’s people, light.
So I’m not going to go and get rest. But I rejoice that it has got me.