For so many years of my life, "rest" was just a four-letter-word. One that beckoned me into the "bad" of inactivity. Nicole Unice, deep-thinker and everyday-woman, rearranges my thinking. Take a moment to read and consider? I dare you to ... exhale.
Brave Enough to Exhale
By Nicole Unice
"In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God rested, and was refreshed."
Rest does not come naturally to me.
Sleep, yes, I know how to sleep, to fall in bed exhausted, my head thick with the business and busyness of the day. But that is not rest.
Yes, I know that rest is good for me and for all of us. Honoring the Sabbath is the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8). "Sabbath was made for man," says Jesus. (Mark 2:27) The writer of Hebrews tells me that I should make every effort to enter Sabbath rest. (Hebrews 4:11). I'm admonished by Moses to give God my seventh day because on that day God rested and was refreshed. In the Hebrew, the word refreshed literally means he exhaled. Sabbath is the divine exhale, and God means business when he invites us into it.
I know that breath is at the middle of all great activity, the energy center of our bodies. I know that breath makes our lungs sing, our neurons fire, our muscles flex. I know that the activity of the inhale is not complete without the relax of the exhale. But the divine exhale of a still soul seems elusive and mysterious to me.
The thought of rest sounds great until it is actually time to rest-and I protest. Why be still when there is movement to be had? Why be quiet when there are thoughts to share? Why be restful when there is work to be done? Constant motion is a nervous habit, a powerful drug, a tempting idol. The swirling center of this motion allows me to focus only on the activity not on identity; to busy myself into believing my work is my worth. Motion means I do not have to care about how I am really doing, what really matters, and how I might be more fragile and less OK than I want to admit.
There is power in activity and if I can't admit it holds power over me, I will continue to live in exhaustion and perpetual motion. "If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder," says author Wayne Muller. I keep choosing activity but in doing so, I know that Muller's words ring true. I know that I lose the tender care, the attentive love, and the joyful wonder. I know I lose the realest part of my life.
I am thankful that God's mercies for me are new every morning, and that tomorrow is a chance to not shame myself into the law of Sabbath but instead, enter into the invitation to rest. The invitation comes in the quietness of the morning light when rather than checking my phone, I breathe in and out a prayer of thanksgiving. The invitation comes again when I stop on my way to the car to see the colors change on the leaves. It beckons in a silent moment during carpool, in a quick stretch before dinner, and in turning off the TV and climbing into bed before weariness renders me unconscious.
Yes, this is the invitation to introduce my busy self to my gentle soul, and to give her time to express herself. This is the power of the Sabbath. It is hard and it takes courage but it's worth it. I want to be brave enough to be a woman of stillness. I want to be brave enough for the exhale.
Nicole Unice is a counselor and pastor at Hope Church in Richmond, VA and author of several books, including her latest, Brave Enough: Getting Over our Fears, Flaws and Failures to Live Bold and Free. Find her speaking calendar at http://nicoleunice.com