Accidental Rest

Recently a friend stayed with me while in town for a job interview. On her way back from the interview, her car broke down and she had it towed to a garage. We didn’t know that day that she would wind up stranded and staying as our house guest for an entire week. That’s how long it would take the garage to get the necessary parts and complete the repairs.

As she and I talked about this unexpected change and delay, which we both could have found highly frustrating, we stumbled upon the phrase, “accidental rest.” My friend hadn’t intended to set aside her normal activities and commitments at home, but her car troubles necessitated her making use of the week for something different–namely, rest.

This meant I had the choice to fight against or to simply accept her reframing of the circumstances and adjust to having her company all week. Maybe I could consider joining in her in this accidental rest. I chose the latter, and for the most part, had a fun and relaxing week, putting aside items on my to-do list that weren’t urgent.

The idea of rest is especially relevant for me at this moment of my journey. I am in my first full week of retirement after 30 years as a professional counselor. I didn’t expect to retire this year, but as I kept at my counseling and recovery work (which I was enjoying and doing well), the thought became daily and persistent: “It’s time.” There wasn’t any event or experience that solidified the decision, just an inner knowing.

I don’t believe in retirement, really, because I will always need to be working at something. In fact, I’m excited about working on quite an array of things, mostly creative. Writing, music, worship, Bible teaching, photography, landscaping, decorating, and of course, walking much in pretty places. My inspiration and ideas are running rampant and free. But the difference is that I get to choose when to work, create, or rest, when to play and when to sleep.

Last week I was reading in Romans 7 and saw through a new lens Paul’s description of the universal struggle of the disciple between the flesh and the Spirit. He describes a warring between what is deep within—the Spirit of life—and the external parts of our bodies and lives.

Often, we are led by the external things, because the practicalities of life require it. But sometimes we have a moment, which might feel like an “accidental rest,” when we can truly attend to the Spirit that lives within. I know that my decision on the timing of my retirement came from that inner place.

This has been confirmed in a few ways. For one, I have had complete peace about it, and not a moment of doubt. Second, everyone I’ve told who knows me even a little bit has been overwhelmingly supportive. So many have responded with something like, “Wow, I’m so happy for you, and so proud of you for going after what you want in this next season of life.” In other words, for me and for those who care about me, it just makes sense. And thirdly, it seems as though the Spirit is nodding with a big grin on his face, like he’s happy too that I listened to the better voice within. He’s adding supernatural joy to the mix.

Now, the question is how to think about and safeguard the rest that has has become available in a new way. I know that God is greatly in favor of rest because he rested himself after a six-day splurge of creativity. He instituted it as a commandment to his human creatures because he knows we need it. Rest is not accidental in God’s plan; it’s strategic, essential, and intentional.

So I embrace the intentional kind of rest and encourage you, dear reader to embrace it also. If we do this consistently, we can keep our hearts healthy, open, flexible, ready for the surprises that come as we deal with the issues of life.

You may not be at the point of retirement from a long career as I am at this moment, but I believe the principle still applies. Day after day, we can attend to the inner voice of the Spirit and create moments of rest that nourish us. And when unexpected things pop up, maybe we take some accidental rests too.

The sky won’t fall. The planets won’t collide. Maybe, just maybe, life will be better, more orderly, more peaceful, more sane, more attuned to the deep, satisfying love of God.  

Photo by Jan Padilla

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