There is a difference between physical rest and soul rest, and while both are good, I believe soul rest is transformative and restorative in a way that physical rest is not.
Physical rest is important, we need sleep, we need to slow down and let our aching muscles sit and stretch. Oftentimes we are so exhausted we think physical rest is all our bodies need. I know I have gone through some seasons, frustrated because I’m on a good sleep schedule, I’m eating well, I’m working out, I’m doing all the things I think I should be doing, yet I still feel drained. Instead of asking myself what’s missing, I usually end up pushing through until I’m nearly at my wit's end- it’s a harmful cycle. It's hard to admit that I let myself fall into this way of being a bit too often.
In the moments where I am conscientiously building habits that promote physical rest, but still feeling drained, I’ve realized that what I am actually longing for is the refreshment that comes from soul rest.
Unfortunately, soul rest takes a lot more intentionality to practice. It’s a multidimensional practice that can rejuvenate a person holistically (body, mind, and soul) and because of that it takes more than a power nap, a quick run, or a day of healthy eating to achieve.
Over the month of August I have been trying to learn more about, and to practice rest, and in doing so I've realized just how important fostering soul rest is. I know I need it but it has been a really difficult thing to achieve. The longer I’ve tried to press into soul rest I’ve realized I’m really good at shutting down emotionally and spiritually and just physically resting, but when it comes to unfolding and working through the chaos of my mind and sitting with the turmoil of my soul- I fall short. I try journaling, I try praying, I try thinking through some of the big questions and challenges of my life. I try to dive into understanding who I am and what I believe, grappling with grief, and why I make the decisions I make. The longer I sit with these thoughts and questions though, the heavier things feel. I’ve realized that before I can experience the soul rest I desire I need to grapple with, and experience, the heaviness, the anger, the frustration, the doubt, the disappointment, the sadness; there are so many different names for our stuff, and we all have different stuff we need to work through before we can experience full soul rest.
Sadly, the stuff is not often easy to work through or to sit in. I find myself most days too uncomfortable to sit in my stuff for long, so I half halfheartedly work through a few things, and then revert to shutting off my brain and just physically resting, succumbing to my overall exhaustion.
I’ve slowly realized I need to keep working to better understand and better practice soul rest, this is not a one month challenge. Steps towards soul rest happen in the growing through and pressing into of hard things, and this takes time. I'm glad though that I have discovered many components that seem to make the journey easier.
In the book The Rest of God there are four things mentioned that are important to consider when spending a day of rest. One is physical rest, then Worship (the act of turning our minds and hearts to something bigger than ourselves in reverence, remembrance, and praise), feasting, and play. All these things can be done alone, but they also can be done in community.
Over the years, as I've encountered challenges, I've realized just how important community is. Having people who see us and love us as we are helps us navigate our tough stuff. Community carries us when we can’t walk on our own, community is there to help dig through our stuff when we can’t do it anymore, or don’t know where to start. Community helps us keep going so we can attain soul rest, and we do the same for our communities in return.
Some of my richest moments of growth and rest have been spent with friends and family. When I feel weary and unable to make sense of things, I am so thankful to have had friends who have said, “us too, we also don’t understand, but let’s sit and talk, and pray, and laugh, and eat, and figure these things out together”.
I have 3 friends who I meet with at least monthly for a meal. One of my friends proposed our little dinner group just over a year ago when she was craving real community, and a set apart space to do life in with trusted people. These times have become so life giving, we feast, we talk, we sit, we linger on the difficult things. We are vulnerable and as we share and speak words of truth to one another and just show up as we are, I know I have experienced soul rest. Not every time we meet looks the same. We always make good food from scratch, but sometimes we talk about heavy things, sometimes we watch movies and laugh together. It’s a free space to come as we are, to bring whatever we need to bring, and as we nourish our bodies with delicious food we also feed our souls with truth and goodness and love.
When we experience true soul rest we can’t help but want more. It’s such an all encompassing type of rest that makes the heart sing, the mind clear, and the soul light. I don’t know the answer to quickly and efficiently resting my soul because I don’t think one exists. I think it’s a process that includes creating space, slowing down, putting in the hard work, and discovering what is restful for your unique soul. Fostering community, and continuing to show up for our communities, letting them into our stuff, and trusting ourselves to speak life into their stuff. Stillness, laughter, good food. Shutting off the hustle and rush and being present.
I don’t want to keep neglecting and ignoring the request of my soul to stop and rest so I will slowly but intentionally develop practices that cause my soul to be still, so I can experience more freedom, more peace, more joy, and more God.
While this month is coming to an end, I know the pursuit of rest will be a lifelong one. I am thankful I have had time to learn about rest this month and to build good foundations and habits that will hopefully serve me for my entire life.
P.S. I shared a quote from the Bible in my first post of this month. A section of it says "come all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). As a Christian what this has come to mean to me is that there is a call to all of us to come, to show up, to admit a need, and to invest time learning what God has for us. We can chase after so many different things trying to feel rested and loved and happy, but I ultimately believe God is the giver of rest and all those other things. I believe resting with God and pressing into the truths that are in the Bible helps us to navigate best through our stuff, and to seize our true rested identities. In the words of my (biological) father “true rest comes from being confident in whose we are”.