There are always lots of questions in a house with children, and the most common one in my world right now is “What’s the plan for today, Mom?” During the school year, we fall into a rhythm of learning and activities, but the summer has all this space for questions and finding different things to do. And it sometimes feels like rest and recreation means more pressure for a mom in the summer – rather than less.
I want to start with a caveat that vacation and time off work (in the summer and the rest of the year) is a profound privilege. There are many people in the world who cannot afford to take time off. Too many do not have access to paid vacation leave. Some families have no way to get time off together. And others experience the warping of time by unemployment or chronic illness. So, I come to the conversation mindful of my own context, as well as others’.
Rest is not just essential for well-being, but it is a prophetic act in a capitalist culture. In Sabbath as Resistance, Walter Brueggemann insists “that divine rest on the seventh day of creation has made clear (a) that YHWH is not a workaholic, (b) that YHWH is not anxious about the full functioning of creation, and (c) that the well-being of creation does not depend on endless work.” In moments, days, or seasons set aside for intentional rest, we reject the ideas that work can or should save us, that efficiency is the highest good, and that there is no time for rest.
Cole Arther Riley, in her book This Here Flesh, writes, “Rest is not the reward of our liberation, nor something we lay hold of once we are free. It is the path that delivers us there.” For years, I have been slowly making small changes in living so that I do not need to escape from my life to rest. It is a work in progress, I promise you.
In addition to reading, I am finding some rest in thinking about re-creation. What we will do next? I am trying to be mindful of what re-creates me. In the same way that sleep restores my body, there are ordinary adventures we can choose that feed my soul. Lying in the hammock with two kids and a stack of library books. A pile of pails and an hour at the u-pick farm. A cooler of sandwiches and a day trip to the beach.
This summer, things did not work out for a week or two away, so our rest and recreation is happening between work and daycare. And my spirit jumps at Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” I have picked up too many burdens in the last several months. I am ready to set them down.
Over and over again, I have learned that rest and re-creation cannot be received when my hands are full of burdens, and I am wearing my weariness as a uniform, with perverse pride. I practice leaving work on time, closing the office door and imagining all my work thoughts leaving my head to spend the night on my desk to wait for the morning. Books and knitting needles, shovels and pails, berries and even weeds fill my hands and heart so much more than my stupid phone. I am carving out space to play at the park, sit with a puzzle or game, or experiment in the kitchen without a need to be somewhere next.
So few people make sure that I receive rest, that my weary heart is re-created. I give away my time and space for rest so cheaply – in a world that will happily take whatever I have to give. Receiving these gifts that God wants to give me means being really honest about what re-creates me rather than drains me. There are so many wonderful ways to spend our time, but only some will give me rest and re-creation.
When we rest ourselves and support others to do likewise, we follow a God of rest. Our re-creation can happen when we show up with presence for sunshine and rain, for tea on the deck, for bonfires and music. May we receive the rest God promises.