Reflections by Jerry Webber

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Rest?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)

I was particularly sensitive to Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28 when I read them a couple of days ago. They caught my attention on the long end of a stretch in which I've dealt with health issues that brought several weeks of lean sleep.

Ahhh, but to be able to sleep again. Rest, sweet rest.

In my naivete', I've supposed that this was the rest Jesus promises. Rest. Sleep. A pause from the demands of work. Respite from the constant houndings of daily life. A moment free from "forced" creativity. Eight hours of non-interrupted REM sleep.

But when I read the passage this time, I asked some other questions of this rest.

What is the rest Jesus gives? Is is rest from physical exhaustion? Is it emotional rest? Is it rest from carrying the burdens others place upon me? Is it rest from health concerns?

And I began to consider other kinds of rest . . . rest from trying to control everyone else around me . . . rest from being attached to outcomes . . . rest from worry about things I cannot control . . . and rest from the control I try to exert over the way things turn out, that they should look the way I want them to look. . . .

Is it rest from my compulsions?
Is it rest from my attachment to security?
Is it rest from my attachment to good health?
Is it rest from my attachment to comfort?

I realize that so much anxiety and worry comes when any of these things are thwarted, when my attachment to them is threatened. Truly, the anxiety and worry represent "no rest", no sense of well-being. They are wearisome, draining, exhausting, pulling out my interior resources, spending energy on that over which I usually have little control.

For this season of my life, I sense that rest is not getting plenty of sleep. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind about these things . . . but for today, rest looks more like letting go of compulsions and releasing attachments.

My experience has been that only in the context of a vertical, Divine-human, I-Thou relationship, do I recognize these compulsions and attachments. The contemplative journey gives me the space to see myself more and more clearly, to see what is more true about myself, and to name the compulsions and attachments which are illusory.

Further, it gives me some language -- even if limited -- to speak to these compulsions and attachments. And it gives me some practices that are well-suited for breaking up the hardened soil of the attachments in order that I might live more freely for good and healing in the world.

Jesus, it would seem to me, is much more invested in this kind of liberating rest that heals me and heals the world than in my prospects for getting a good, eight hour sleep.

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