I’ve been pondering the idea of rest these last six months. It’s something I am in shortage of as a shepherdess of little people. I want to give my life to Jesus and serve Him with it. But whenever I hold out my hands to him it seems like the life I have to give is thin and worn out. I find myself thinking, “If only I could find rest my life would fill out again and my offering would be like the fat portion burned to make a sweet aroma to the LORD.”
What is rest really? Sleep? Hobbies? Netflix? Rest is a pause, a stillness of mind and heart. I would love to list out all the definitions of rest from my glorious dictionary. But the list takes up a third of the page and would likely tax your attention span. So I’ll just list a few of the highlights. “Peace, ease, refreshment. Refreshing ease after work. A period of inactivity. Relief from distress. Peace of mind, emotional calm. State of being still. In music, an interval of silence between tones. To remain, stay, abide. Surplus of funds.” Rest is a point of inaction between actions. Therein lies the problem.
In order to have inaction one has to stop. Why is it so hard to stop? I believe there are several answers to that question, I am only going to look at one. That is the point of enough. I can stop when I have enough, or have done enough, or I am enough. Without a sense of enough in our hearts it is really hard to stop, even as a Christian. Have I prayed enough? Have I given enough? Have I done enough to prove Jesus didn’t make a mistake choosing me?
Each relational role or career comes with its own liturgy that boils down to, “Is it enough?” Those liturgies run us down every day biting at the heel of our heart. So we push harder and harder trying to get ahead of enough. But there’s no getting ahead of enough. In my experience, the only way to stop this hound is for the God of the universe to step between me and enough, look it in the face and declare its name to itself, “Enough!” Only the authority of the creator of me and enough can speak and end the chase.
God created enough just as much as He created me. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” (Gen. 1:31-2:2 NKJV) God created, He said it was good. Which made His work finished. The combination of saying it is good and finished created that sense of enough, at which point God rested.
Why can’t we look at our work and say it is good and finished? I think it’s because of comparison. “Well, John Doe over there volunteers two nights a week so I ought to at least two, if not three nights.” “Jane Doe is a full time mom, runs a small business out of her home, and still has time to lead M.O.P.S. on Thursdays. I just work the front desk at the office, and thaw food in the microwave for dinner.” So on and so forth.
When I think of the problem of comparison and enough, I always think of Mary and Martha. They were the sisters of Lazarus who lived in Bethany. Jesus seemed to be close to the three siblings, they’re mentioned a lot in the gospels. One of their stories is when Jesus and the disciples descend on their house for dinner and Martha ends up doing all the work while Mary sits with Jesus listening. Martha gets upset and tries to get Jesus to rebuke her. Jesus instead defends Mary and says she has chosen the better use of time and He won’t take that from her. (Luke 10:38-42)
Martha often gets a bad rap for this encounter. Like, how could she let worry and distraction get between her and Jesus? Why can’t she be more like Mary? Martha compared herself with Mary, and we compare the sisters too. But really it’s not a fair comparison. Martha was comparing her work to Mary’s rest. If Martha wanted a fair comparison she should have compared her work to Mary’s work, or her rest to Mary’s rest. And you can’t say that one sister is good and one is bad because we need both. We need work and rest. Maybe that was Jesus’ point, rest is a blessing from God – rest with Jesus is blessing and life-restoring. Mary was able to quell enough and rest with Jesus.
The sisters weren’t the only people near Jesus who fell prey to comparison and enough. After the resurrection when Jesus met the disciples at the beach. Jesus repeated the miracle from when He first called them, and restored Peter’s relationship after the three denials. Right after this restoration, Peter starts to compare his future ministry to John’s. Jesus nips that in the bud and says, “What is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21, quoted: 21:22) In other words, “His enough is not going to look like your enough. So don’t live your life according to an enough that is not yours. You just make sure that you follow Me.”
Martha’s enough did not look like Mary’s and vice versa. My enough does not look like Jane Doe’s enough. Who knows, maybe she is living according to someone else’s enough and herself needs to pull back into her own enough. When God steps in and declares over our work, “Enough,” we are able to stop comparing, able to stop working, and abide in Him. When we look over at the next person we can remember God’s word over our lot in life and we can rest.
Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary Deluxe Second Edition. Noah Webster, Revisions supervised by Jean L. McKechnie. 1983. New World Dictionaries, Cleveland, OH. Page 1543.