A Rest Routine

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My daughter Riley is the best airplane sleeper I’ve ever known. The second after she buckles her seatbelt, she puts on her eye mask and is out. She will be thirty minutes into her nap before we even leave the gate. Takeoff doesn’t rattle her. She prefers a window seat so that she can lean her head against the wall, but at some point during the flight, she usually pulls the tray down and puts her head on it for a while. Her routine works for her like clockwork – she rests up on the way out of town for the adventure to come and sleeps on the way home to recover from the journey. Riley has established a routine that works well for her.  

Putting routines into practice is the goal of most new year’s resolutions. Eat better, exercise regularly, stick to a budget: almost any new habit requires small steps on a daily basis to make them routine. Creating a routine for rest is not usually the subject of resolutions though. Yes, we talk about going to bed at the same time each night and avoiding screen time before bed, but we often treat rest as a necessary evil or simply a means to an end. We think we need good sleep so we can be more productive or take on more tasks. 

I don’t know exactly what a rest routine would look like yet because I haven’t developed one myself. But I think I need a self-care plan that includes a pattern of rest that goes beyond a good night’s sleep. After this last holiday break, I was depleted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Instead of realizing that I needed rest, though, I spiraled, overanalyzed, and tried to figure out what was wrong with me. If I had a rest routine, then maybe I wouldn’t be as susceptible to becoming so drained and would also notice that rest was necessary before I got so down in the dumps. Rest will not solve every one of life’s troubles by any means, but maybe it’s the first step.

As we reenter our normal routines at the start of this year, and I recognize the need for some sort of rest routine, the 23rd Psalm keeps replaying in my mind. David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul (Psalm 23:1-3). The first action that David attributes to God is that “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” When I thought of this verse in light of my fatigue this week, I heard it differently than in the past. It’s as if God must force David to rest. He doesn’t say that the Lord lets him take a break or allows him time to nap or lollygag in the meadow, but that the Lord compels him to rest. David wasn’t so great at taking time to rest as God intended either.  

At the start of one of my favorite books, “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert writes about praying for guidance for the next steps in her life on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. She begged for help, crying, asking God, “Please tell me what to do,” when she felt as though a divine voice told her, “Go back to bed, Liz” (15-16). In that moment, God didn’t give her an elaborate step by step plan but commanded her to simply rest. 

Perhaps we can learn to develop a rest routine because God wants to refresh our souls, and the path to that restoration comes, at least in part, from the rest he longs to give us. When we feel like we have nothing left to give anyone, let us remember that God desires for us to take time to truly rest so that we may regain our footing and find the strength to follow him.          

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