Resisting Rest {the discipline of inactivity}

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I can’t be the only one that is still reeling from this surreal turn of events. March is cancelled. April is most likely cancelled. The rest of the school year is potentially cancelled. Summer is on probation, and nobody is able to see far enough into the future to make accurate predictions about the fall. It’s absolutely nuts! But what is crazier is how I’ve been dealing with it.

resisting-rest-discipline-inactivity

Calling All Quarantined, Social Distanced Control Freaks

I’m a stay at home mom, we homeschool full time, and we only have one vehicle in our family. I have four kids under the age of 9, only one of which can be reasonably trusted to walk anywhere in public without holding a hand… but I only have two of those. So we don’t go places very often.

Yet, I still felt the suffocating grip of claustrophobia as my brain slowly processed the implications of this week. Not because I had so much to rearrange, because I really didn’t. But because I can’t get comfortable with the idea that the only priority on my agenda now and indefinitely is inactivity.

I’ll never forget a sleepover with my best friend when we were about 10 years old. We had a wonderful time all day playing Barbies, American Girl dolls, Super Star — we did ALL the things. And when it came time to put it all away and get ready for bed we found ourselves unable to break away from our pretend world. This led to a lecture upon being discovered, and we were promptly readied and put to bed.

“But my room!” I wailed in protest as my mom moved to turn out the light. “It’s horrible!” Believe it or not, I was a OCD clean freak in the making all the way back in 4th grade.

“I’m sorry,” at this point the adult me can’t believe she wasn’t cracking up, but she gave us a straight face: “You should have cleaned up when I gave you the bedtime warning. Now it’s too late and past your bedtime — you can clean up in the morning.”

Furious, I steamed for the next 15 minutes until my harsh whispering finally got me and my bestie back up and out of bed, in the dark this time, to quietly clean up my room.

I wish I could say that after a minute I came to my senses and went back to bed, but fiercely stubborn 10-year-old me was in it to the death.

Sure enough, the creaking floors soon alerted my parents of our disobedience and I was promptly punished and we were sent to bed for REAL under threat of discipline for sneaking and lying. Now I can’t say that I disagree with my parents’ verdict, but the irony is too sweet. What kid gets in trouble for cleaning up their room?

Me, that’s who. The same me that’s been pacing a hole in my floor since we were not-so-subtly advised to cancel our entire lives until further notice.

Not that I had much of a life to cancel, I am a stay at home mom and we do homeschool, so our days are generally quite full without adding the stress of keeping track of them all outside the boarders of our little island.

But the fact that I have now been TOLD to stay home makes me itch. Like a spider you’re sure you saw out of the corner of your eye but now you can’t find, the idea that I can’t just get up and go makes my skin crawl.

Up until about 15 minutes ago I’ve been in denial, thinking my resistance to this idea of informal house arrest was out of a VERY REAL NEED to reestablish sanity in the chaos of motherhood. But then the Holy Spirit started playing word games in my head, which he does quite a bit, especially when I’m being particularly thick-skulled about something.

It started as house arrest… house arrest. Resisting arrest. Resisting… rest. Ouch. There it is… you’ve got me.

It’s been a long six days or so that I’ve been throwing a nice little pity party for myself, feeling even more secluded and isolated than I usually do. Not only am I stuck in this box with four crazy ‘co-workers’ as we’re saying now, but I actually had well laid plans of escape in the form of a two-day getaway with my husband at the end of the month.

We haven’t been away in months, and after the frozen ‘h’ ‘e’ double hockey sticks that was February, it didn’t take much convincing to realize we needed a break. I had literally been crossing off the days like we do the countdown to Christmas — I was SO there. And then life happened and put all our lives on hold.

Not only does homeschooling, the terrible 2’s and toddlerhood just know how to drain me dry, I now had a really big vendetta against COVID-19.

That’s where my head was, just a few minutes ago while I was putting away piles of laundry {why is there SO. MUCH. LAUNDRY??} when I heard those words go off in my head like a gong: resisting rest.

That’s what I’ve been doing all this time. Not just the past 6 days we’ve all been on high alert, but the past 20 some odd years. It goes all the way back to that sleepover in 4th grade and my inability to set my priorities aside and rest.

Rest doesn’t come easily to some of us, but it’s not because we’re harder workers. Oh we’d like to think that, for sure. We snuggle up all nice and comfy with a martyr’s complex when we hear other people talk of days full of nothing and no responsibilities.

But when all our proverbial dreams come true and we are literally LOCKED IN OUR HOUSES with nowhere to go and probably very little that actually NEEDS to be done, we find ourselves doing all any self-respecting control freak can do:

We throw a flipping fit.

I’m not pointing fingers, believe me. This is as much of a hard pill for me to swallow as it may be for anyone who read this. But it’s the truth and it’s time I come to grips with it.

I can’t expect peace in this storm, for my kids to act normal, for my husband to stay steady-eddy — I can’t demand joy, hope and calm if I’m not doing my part. Up until now I thought ‘my part’ was keeping my eyes on the Lord, and that is a big piece of it. But now the other shoe has dropped and I can clearly see what I’ve been missing: his invitation (more force-fed than offered) to rest.

What kind of rest is he inviting us to? Surely not the ‘lay on the couch all day and eat chips while the world quarantines’ rest that we make jokes about on Facebook. If that was all there was to it this wouldn’t be a very hard challenge.

But this is real life. We still have kids, responsibilities, food to cook, laundry to put away and bathrooms to clean, and although our schedules might be looking a little on the lean side, the new routine (yes, even for us homeschoolers) more than makes up for it. For most of us, this forced vacation is anything but.

Action Plan for the Newly Isolated Mama

If we can’t write off dishes and making dinner (let alone Cloroxing EVERY SURFACE EVERYWHERE), then what ARE we looking at? What does resting look like in God’s eyes? Our lives have all been brought to a screeching halt, and for what? What is the lesson to be gained from forced inactivity? We could get just as consumed frantically obsessing over what we’ve lost as we were living it a week ago. If our mindset is off, ‘resting’ can be just as exhausting as running a marathon.  

So here’s a few things to consider in examining your heart towards rest and inactivity. I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me!

  1. The ‘rest’ God is talking about is meant to impact all three parts of us: body, soul and spirit. In what way does your body need to rest? Take a break? Does it need to lay around for a few days, or does it need a break from things that don’t bring health and wellness?
    How about your soul, which is your mind, will and emotions? I’m willing to bet your mind could use a break from all the junk we’ve all been thinking about for days. I’m not saying bury your head in the sand, but we have to balance the negative with the positive. What about your spirit? The Holy Spirit lives inside of those who call Jesus Lord and have surrendered their lives to him, but the Word of God tells us it’s possible to grieve the Holy Spirit by our actions. What ways do you need to allow God to bring rest and restoration to your spirit?
  2. Secondly, we need to discipline ourselves to be still. This has always been SO HARD for me. Sitting still, not thinking, just being is a skill set I did not acquire. But we are told over and over in Scripture to do just that: be still. Rest in the storm, wait in peace. The apostle Paul tells us to get all suited up for the fight with the Armor of God, but then to stand (Ephesians 6), which was a militaristic term that meant to slowly progress forward. He didn’t say to run at the enemy, he said to stand.I think what makes inactivity so hard for many of us is that we don’t like to stop doing things. Either our identity is tied to our abilities (that’s me!) or we use our busyness to shove down all the unresolved issues and problems we don’t know how to deal with. Whichever it is for you – one or both – I know that inactivity makes the silence of my situation scream in my ears. Being still makes me uncomfortable, uneasy — scared. Maybe that’s why it’s so important. Usually when we feel insecure we find ourselves running into the arms of our Father and laying our fears before him. Whatever the reason, it is an important lesson for all of us to learn, and ironically, we all got dealt the same hand at the same time. Self-discipline is essential to life. Which is why I will be trying to embrace this new season in which I find myself inactive, quiet — still before the Lord, a lot more often than I’m used to.
  3. And last but not least, there is most likely a very motivating reason for us to swallow this pill and find our new equilibrium: our families.When change happens, everyone innately dives down deep to find the anchor, and more often than not, the anchor in your home is you. I’m not saying you’re the only one bearing this burden, but let’s be honest… my husband can get a man-cold and the kids think it’s fun to have him home and play restaurant serving him meals.When I so much as stub my toe I have four pairs of eyes on me instantly, quietly waiting for me to tell them it’s ok. They need to hear that from me because if I’m ok, then they’re ok. Moms, we set the emotional tone of our homes.

    This is a great weight to carry, but it is also a sacred privilege. For just a few short years in their early childhood, our children allow us to set the temperature of their emotional and mental wellbeing. If mom’s ok, we’re all ok. And that, sweet mamas, is why it’s so important we learn this lesson on week one of this trial, not week four.

     

How about you? Where do you fall on this spectrum of rest? Is it a discipline that comes easily to you, or one that makes you feel like the world is upside down? Wherever you are at this time, I pray peace and health and healing over you and your home! I pray this time would be used to grow you closer to those you love and to the Lord as he guides us down this unknown path. You may be isolated in your own little corner of the world, but you are not alone. Enjoy this time, embrace the rest and the nothingness and the peace that it brings. Maybe we’ll all surprise ourselves and not want to go back when the world straightens itself out again! 🙂

Love and prayers from my family to yours,jmsignature

 

 

 

 


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