We're overweight, we're addicted to everything we do, we never spend enough time with our families, we don't know how to discipline our children, and we let an irresponsible media teach us about the world. While these things are largely true, I would hate to only think about the negative. There are many positive things we have done too. So, without demonizing ourselves and especially not our neighbors, let's ponder how we generally go about resting.
It seems that in America we most often buy our rest—usually in the form of a vacation. Remember, I'm not demonizing—even buying rest is not usually what I would call bad, but because we can only buy a certain type, a certain amount of rest, I think we have neglected the other kind too much.
The other kind of rest is one you create in the culture of your family and community—a rest you have every day of the week (or at least close to every day). You can't buy this kind. It can’t be booked. But more than that, it takes a lot of hard work—and hard work is not exactly what I have in mind when I think of rest. Quite the opposite.
But a culture of rest? Rest as a core value for my family and community? That will take some work to create, even just in my own person.
I am not married and so I do not have that sort of real family opportunity to test this on my own, but I do have roommates and we are a kind of family unit just by living together. We have gone on vacations together, and those have been very good. We've needed to get away. But unfortunately, away stays away when we come home.
Since that form of rest can't come with us back to work (at least not for long, and never as long as we'd like), we are so very blessed to also have a taste of the other kind of rest as well. We sit on our porch together and talk. We sip wine together at night. We eat together. We aren't perfect—we have quarrels and because we aren't real family, no one can make decisions for us as a group, but we do seem to have a little culture of rest happening. Our little family unit values everyday rest—and it opens the door to those really good times…
You know those times? After you've worked hard and you’re with your friends or family for an evening to do nothing in particular? Together is what it's really about. The rest I'm thinking of is with others we love, and it requires that not everything is perfect. If we are occupied with perfection in our togetherness, we will miss it altogether. If we are occupied with perfection, we won’t even notice our families.
In the movie American Beauty, Kevin Spacey’s character is about to finally have a romantic moment with his wife in the midst of their avalanche of a marriage, when she interrupts him, worried he will spill beer on their “four thousand dollar sofa, upholstered in Italian silk.” The exchange ends with Spacey’s line, which has echoed in my mind ever since: “This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.”
These words always stop me dead in my tracks. I remind myself, “Season, if you want a culture of rest in your family and in your community, the sofa is going to have a few beer stains.”
But what is a beer stain to a life of joy and rest in your innermost being? There will be imperfections, and to these imperfections I say, "His power is made perfect in weakness," and smile. I may work hard to create a culture of rest, a clean and beautiful place to call home, but I will always fall short of keeping it perfectly clean and beautiful, of keeping my kids totally acceptable at all time...
I always find that in that shortcoming, God has a genuine open door to join my family. He brings the best rest to us and our families because He is the only one who can truly take the weight off of our backs.