Creating space for rest

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray.

Luke 5:16

I grit my teeth a lot.

A couple of years ago, my dentist told me that the wear on my teeth was unusual for someone my age. She recommended I get a mouth guard to combat the effects of grinding my teeth when I sleep.

Grinding your teeth is a sign of high stress or anxiety.

At some point during the past couple months, I started to feel like I was gritting my teeth to get from one thing to the next. I dreaded events I should have be looking forward to, because I only saw them as another obstacle on the road to rest. And I didn’t really see any rest in sight.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the grind, and I’m good at it. But this semester, it started to wear me down.

If you know me, you probably know I’m constantly going and doing. I keep a meticulous calendar, and I often tell people, “If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist!” If I don’t write down engagements, I won’t remember them.

Law school, of course, is not a good time to rest. “Just get past the bar exam,” one attorney told me. “Then you can rest.” The legal field is filled with people struggling with addiction and burnout, people who cannot manage the stress and have to leave the profession.

The advice was well-intentioned, but I know myself. I know if I push through this type of deep mental and physical exhaustion until I get to the next “rest stop,” that rest stop is never going to come. If I don’t force myself to take time to learn how to relax now, I will never find a good time. No one is going to force me to take a break.

My friends helped me enormously in recognizing my burnout and my need for rest, and encouraging healthy boundaries.

I think rest varies in how it looks for different people. For me, rest is making intentional space to process emotions away from time online and in large groups.

I find one-on-one time with my close friends to be deeply restful. Walking. Running trails. Reading a book before bed. There are other methods of rest I haven’t explored or discovered yet. I’m still learning and I hope to continue. If you have a suggestion for active rest, I’d love to hear it!

Throughout the semester, I made the conscious effort to create space for rest. I started saying no to commitments I knew I would regret saying yes to.

I tried to be intentional about holding space for processing my emotions instead of numbing them. When the Covenant School shooting happened, I let myself feel numb, then angry, then despondent. I cried. I skipped class for the first time in law school. I prayed.

When finals rolled around, I blocked off large chunks of time for studying. I got off Instagram and Facebook. I prioritized my sleep and workout schedule. I made sure to get outside during study breaks, or sit near a window to study. I didn’t study for more than 6-8 hours each day, but I made it effective. And I felt better about my studying this semester than I ever have.

This morning, I was reading Luke chapter 5, about Jesus healing a man from illness and performing miracles. The last verse in the first section stood out in contrast from Jesus’ miraculous works in front of large crowds.

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray.”

I think Luke intentionally placed this sentence at the end of the section. Fully human and fully God, Jesus knew and demonstrated his understanding of rest! After these encounters with large crowds Jesus would withdraw, or go away, to the wilderness (sometimes translated “lonely places”) to pray and recharge.

I have big dreams and goals. I want to be an effective advocate for those who don’t have a voice. I can’t do any of it if I don’t find time to recharge, to grow in my relationship with God and my friends. I’m glad I’m learning how to now before it’s too late.

If you find yourself weary and needing rest these days, I encourage you to make space for the process and see how you might best learn what is effective for you.

It’s easy to think, that’s all well and good for her, but I really don’t have time for rest. Look at Jesus. Was his mission less important than yours? Jesus made time for rest; what beliefs are stopping you?

I am not suggesting this is simple in any way. I only know that it is essential.

One Reply to “Creating space for rest”

  1. Great reminder that taking time to rest is crucial for our physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s inspiring to see that you have found ways to prioritize rest and recharge amidst a busy schedule. Thank you for sharing your experience and encouraging others to make space for rest.
    founder of balance thy life


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