The bleating awakened us as the sheep gnawed on the corner of our tent. We were a little nervous that the sheep were going to destroy something, so we popped out. Instead, the sheep were chill, lazily munching grass nearby, looking up at us as we poked our heads out, as if to say, “What’s up?”
We were on the Isle of Arran in Scotland, camping out for a few days on our whirlwind tour through Europe. I’d found this little campground for us, nestled among the sheep and other critters on the island, though I hadn’t expected there to be literal sheep munching the grass just outside our doorway.
The black faced sheep were friendly, gangly, and awkward, and, above all else, relaxed.
Today, a friend of mine mentioned how he recently read Psalm 23, the Great Shepherd passage and how, as he was thinking about rest, the line changed for him. “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”
We live in a society that celebrates burn-out through the exacting demands on workers, less-than-livable wages, the constant call for performance at top notch quality, and an inability to cope with goofing things up a little bit for fear we’ll get fired.
Unfortunately, I have lived into this mentality for the past several years since I compromised myself and listened to people around me (but that’s a different story) on what I should and shouldn’t be and do.
I used to literally live on $1100 a month, paying $750 of that in rent. Clearly, that was before I was married or had cats. But I was living in a nice neighborhood in Chicago at the time, just two blocks from Lake Michigan. I miss that life in some regards.
I used to rest back then. I didn’t go on vacations, (who could afford one on that budget?), but I wasn’t constantly going-going-going. I’m exhausted, burnt-out, and short on energy, despite being what much of society would call “successful” (besides, you know, not having that fortune in the bank account…)
My friend’s thoughts today reminded me of the camping trip to Scotland, though, as I contemplate this topic of rest.
I’m in great need of rest but can’t seem to find it. I run along doing all the things I’m “supposed to” to provide for my family and meet the needs of the MockingOwl Roost, grad school classes, and other things in my life.
But this topic of sabbath keeps coming back to me. We all need rest and the reminder to rest. So, inadvertently, I started looking for my own symbol of rest to remind me of this need.
Most often, we think of a sabbath as a day off of work. This is the reason the most dedicated followers of sabbath practices don’t even allow themselves to cook or clean on their days off, and, instead, must do the work ahead of time.
But as I’ve been learning lately, sabbath isn’t just a day off of work. It isn’t an inactive, lying about time, but rather it is filled with what is known as active rest. In fitness terms, this means low-impact activity like walking or casual cycling.
In emotional and spiritual terms, however, active rest is a bit different. It encompasses more than just the body engaging in light, low-energy activities that build up the body without breaking it down (in case you didn’t realize, building muscle actually literally breaks down your muscles, which is why you feel tired and sore afterward!).
Active rest days – that is, Sabbath days – may involve light physical work, and in most cases, it’s recommended that you do engage in walking, enjoy cycling, or other fun physical activities, but they also involve communal activities and restoration.
These activities might be things like having a game night with your friends, family, or social group, or painting for pleasure, taking a fun class that doesn’t require a lot of emotional work or mental processing, and doing other things for pure enjoyment.
Our bodies were designed for play and pleasure, not constant work, then fall into bed and then struggle to sleep, then wake up and repeat cycles. So were our minds.
This semester of seminary, I’m in three excellent classes:
- Being Well, which examines the aspects of wellness (physical, spiritual, communal, emotional, physical)
- A leadership in ministry class that examines our own ideas of power-dynamics, whole being, and similar so that we might lead as healthy individuals
- An independent study course through which I am studying Indigenous arts in missiology.
All three classes are amazing but exhausting. There’s a lot of emotional work being done every time I crack the spine (or, in this case, open the Kindle app) and start reading. There are practices to engage in, papers to write, questions to ask of classmates, and responses to give. All of this work is wonderful, but draining.
And coming while I am already completely exhausted emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. I’ve been doing a lot of theological deconstruction and am in the process of reconstruction. I’ve been dealing with a lot of conversations about racism, sexism, ableism, and other evil isms of the world.
My friend’s comment about the green pastures and rest, though, gives me a bit of hope – and symbol of rest to embrace. The sheep. I’m specifically choosing the black-faced sheep as my symbol, rather than “any old sheep” because of my personal interactions with this breed more than any others.
I’ve found a fun little figure to purchase and set on my desk to remind myself of this much needed rest – true rest – as I work and seek to better my well being overall. This will be my visual symbol and reminder that it’s inherent to need rest and good and healthy for me to take true rest and restoration time when I need it.
What symbol of rest might you find for yourself? What story inspires you to relax, rest, breathe, restore?
Need more inspiration for your self-care and rest? Check these other pieces by authors from around the globe.
- Sometimes, you need a reminder: Adjectives Aren’t Everything
- Sometimes, self-care is stepping out of your comfort zone: Waterfall Bathing in Prony Bay
- Sometimes self-care is Holding the Contradiction
- It might be drinking your favorite thing, like Peppermint Mocha
- Or enjoying a cuppa Tea on the Patio
Editor-in-Chief of The MockingOwl Roost, Rita Mock-Pike is the granddaughter of aviatrix, Jerrie Mock, first woman to pilot an airplane solo around the world. Rita has found inspiration from her grandmother’s life and flight and pursued many of her own dreams in theatre, podcasting, novel writing, and cooking up delicious food from around the world. She now writes on food, travel, pets, faith, and the arts. She’s happily married to Matt, and faithfully serves the very fluffy kitten queen, Lady Stardust.