Lent: Rest

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I’m terrible at resting.

Not sleeping. I think I’ve got that down. But taking the time to stop and just be, or just close my eyes and breathe, is hard.

The caffeine headaches finally wore off this past weekend. They weren’t as intense or as long lasting as I had anticipated. I was struck, however, by just how difficult it was to be fully present with others. Fluorescent lights and loud noises have become my enemies.

While the headaches have worn away, I’m still adjusting to getting through a day caffeine-free. If you had asked me a few months ago whether caffeine affected me, I would have laughed and said no, citing my late-nite coffee intake and relatively stable sleep patterns. But now close to a week free of caffeine, I’m finding myself dead tired at odd times, falling asleep reading, going to bed earlier.

I don’t do well with not doing things – just sitting and being still, allowing myself to take a nap, going for a walk for no reason other than I can. Even when I’m sick, I feel a need to accomplish something. I’ve always got a list in my head of things I need to do, and rest is rarely on the agenda.

I wonder if this pressing need to accomplish something is universal. Perhaps we spend billions on coffee and energy drinks to give us enough to get through our overworked days, all in hopes that we might accomplish something beyond ourselves, somehow validating our existence and giving us an edge in the world.

Lent, then, is about crushing our belief that we are validated by our accomplishments. In sacrificing and fasting we are reminded of just how weak we are, and just how much we need life and purpose and resurrection from somewhere or someone outside of ourselves. We acknowledge and embrace the death of all our good intentions with the imposition of ashes, and enter a time where our fasting pains bring to the forefront of our lives the longing for validation and acceptance we have been filling with menial achievements in the rat race of life. We rest from our striving after God and man’s acceptance, knowing that resurrection is coming.

So I rest, knowing that the world will not end while my eyes are shut, because the world isn’t in my hands to begin with.

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