Last month a cousin whom I’ve not seen in many years visited and stayed with us for a few days. His wife of many years had recently passed-away after a long illness. My Cousin is now taking some time to visit friends and relatives outside his home state of Pennsylvania.
As we talked about a variety of topics, my Cousin pulled out his phone to show us some pictures. Many were of his garden. I asked what he liked about gardening. He said that it helped him to rest and relax. This caught my attention. It did so because I’ve known for a very long time that I have issues with not knowing how to relax.
With this in mind I said, “What do you mean, what exactly do you mean when you say that gardening helps you to rest and relax?” He thought about it for a moment, and then said something along the lines of, “When I’m gardening I think of little else. It’s so restful. Hours fly by without me noticing that any time has passed.” He then turned and looked at me and said, “Don’t you have anything in your life that does that for you?” I struggled to answer his question. In fact, I couldn’t immediately come up with anything.
As I said above, I’ve known for many years that I don’t know how to relax. I suspect this has a great deal to do with growing up in a household in which both of my parents were alcoholics. I’ve read that those who grow up in such settings tend to be hypervigilant. This is apparently the case because when living with an alcoholic one can experience long periods of relative normalcy between the crisis situations that inevitably become part of life on a regular basis. This cycle results in an inner sense that the periods of relative “relaxation” between horrific events actually causes them to occur. This being the case, one apparently learns to subconsciously fight off any urge to relax.
This may sound odd or trivial, yet when one lives like this from birth to sixteen or so it tends to become part of who you are. I shared in a post titled “In Pursuit of Peace” (11 January 2020) how the Lord helped me to overcome this and to find a degree of peace in my life that I’d never known before. I’m so thankful for this. I have more peace in my life now that I’ve ever had, and am still growing in this. And yet, I still have issues with knowing how to rest and relax.
To me, peace has to do with assurance and trust in the Lord. It’s the opposite of anxiety. As I said, the Lord has helped me grow in peace to a degree that I could not imagine while growing up. I’m still learning, and it’s wonderful. Rest, however, remains elusive to me. This is the case even though one of the most important portions of Scripture to me promises rest. I’ve shared these verses in several other articles. It’s worth sharing Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) again:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
In these verses Jesus promises if we come to him that he will give us, and that we will find rest. I first “came to Jesus” in the sense of receiving him as my Lord and Savior in 1982. I’ve come to him many times throughout each day since, and sense that I do know what it means to “rest” in Jesus in a spiritual sense. I often place my spiritual burdens at the feet of Jesus, and trust him to carry them. This includes entrusting to him those I most dearly love. In this sense I do know what it means to rest, and am thankful to be growing in this area as I continue to grow in my love for and dependence on God.
I have, numerous times, researched the word “rest” as it’s used in verses like the one quoted above. The essence of the word means to cease from movement or labor, and to thus be refreshed. In a spiritual sense, I do stop from normal activity as I pray, read the Lord’s word, listen, and worship, and am spiritually refreshed as I do so. And yet, this has not carried over to my life in a physical sense. When not being refreshed in the Lord, I tend to be working, thinking about work, or planning for the future. I suppose it doesn’t help that my role as a Global Security Advisor involves receiving serious messages at all times of the day and night.
My Cousin’s visit and the way he looked at me when I couldn’t come up with anything when he asked me how I rest or relax reminded me that this is something I need to work on. My wife Bonnie and I took our first vacation in four years last week. We spent four days in Tennessee. It was great, yet I wouldn’t say that it was restful.
As I seek to grow in this area of my life, I suspect I could learn a lot from others. In the coming weeks and months I plan to ask others, when it seems appropriate to do so, how they relax. There might be hobbies or activities they enjoy that I could try out. If you think of it, I’d appreciate you praying for me in this area. Feel free to also share in the Comment section below ways that you’ve learned to relax. I’d appreciate learning from your experiences.
In the meantime, I’ll work on learning to relax. Who knows, even though gardening seems like a lot of work to me, maybe I’ll learn to enjoy it one day. One thing that helps a great deal is the certain knowledge that when this life is over we will have eternity to rest in God’s very presence. I cannot imagine anything more relaxing that this!