Being Mindful That God Invites Us to Rest
Christopher Wemp '12, M.A. '15
I’ve been tired lately. Between my regular job, grad classes, and parish music ministry, there hasn’t been much time for slowing down or even reflecting on what I’m doing and where I’m going. Yet if I think about taking a break, I feel a pang of regret and second-guess myself. There’s so much to be done; if I slow down now, I’ll miss my chance to make a real impact in the world. Real innovators and changemakers don’t rest.
When struggling to stay awake while reading a theology class assignment, I stumbled across an excerpt that changed my perspective. In God and the World in the Old Testament, Terence E. Fretheim asks a critical question: Is crafting a careful personal rhythm of work and rest a way of praising God? His answer: Yes, because God, the great creator of all that is, rested on the seventh day of creation. Rest, so argues Fretheim, is a part of God’s creation and should be observed as a way of thanking God.
This startled me at first, given my current routine of working constantly, seeking more, and doing more. Perhaps I even felt a little bit threatened. Was this argument an attack on accomplishment? After thinking it through, I would say that Fretheim invites us to reflect on the following: How would we interpret the world differently if we weren't constantly seeking to build and do more? How would you simply enjoy reality for what it is?
I’m not suggesting that we give up on life goals or settle with lesser ambitions to cultivate a world in which justice and peace thrive. To use Catholic language, working for such a world is to realize the reign of God. There is so much need in our local communities and so many urgent global problems to solve for humans and the rest of the natural earth. Even turning our attention to such issues requires hard, exhausting work. It requires counter-cultural thinking, imagination, networking, and creative resourcing even when it would be easier to give up or focus on ourselves instead.
when it is time to take a well-deserved break to treat it positively and take it without guilt or hesitation. Consider rest as an opportunity to praise God.
I’m simply suggesting that when it is time to take a well-deserved break to treat it positively and take it without guilt or hesitation. Consider rest as an opportunity to praise God. Consider rest as a chance to appreciate the gifts of the earth you may not have noticed before; let it spark your creativity for thinking broadly about where you are going and who you are. Finally, treat rest as a form of cura personalis, or care of the whole person. God loves you and urges you to treat yourself with care.
None of this is easy, given life demands and the intentionality required for such a paradigm shift. I personally struggle with it every day. So, rather than overzealously suggesting you make an immediate lifestyle change, I simply invite you to ask, “How will you rest today?”
*Looking for a way to rest with music? You can find songs exploring the theology of rest in my newly released album, “Instruments of Peace,” particularly in “May God Love You/Come Rest in God,” “Then Peace Will Dwell/Y paz habrá,” “Will You Follow Me by Loving One Another?,” and “Psalm 62: Rest in God alone, my soul.”