We don’t know how to rest and relax anymore. Picture an overtired toddler fighting a much-needed nap. This is a good image for many of us as we push ourselves through days filled with too much activity and too much stress. Part of the problem is that too often the work we do takes place mostly in our brains and on our computers. We are mentally but not physically tired. People who work in physically demanding jobs perhaps have a better awareness of the body’s need for rest. I think my parents and grandparents were much better than I am at balancing work and rest. But this isn’t solely a twenty-first-century phenomenon. As far back as the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures, God had to command one day of rest for the Chosen People. Left to ourselves, like toddlers we will keep going until we drop in our tracks. One of my favorite quotes from Isaiah talks about how quiet trust and rest will lead to salvation. It wasn’t until I found the quote in its full context that I understood how much we resist the very thing we most need: For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, “No! We will flee upon horses”— therefore you shall flee!—Isaiah 30:15–16 We rely a great deal—probably too much—on our own efforts. We become convinced that we’re indispensable and irreplaceable. We don’t realize that it’s OK to ask for help—or at least allow ourselves to take a day off and return to the task with renewed energy.
— from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent
by Diane M. Houdek