By Vanessa Rasanen
Months ago I posted a meme on my Facebook page pointing out how parents view non parents who claim to be exhausted — basically, with hysterical laughter. It earned me some pretty heated comments, as well as some unfollows. I probably should have expected such a reaction, given our propensity these days to take everything as a personal affront or insult. No matter how many times I tried to explain the point of the meme — not that non parents aren’t ever tired, but just that there is an extreme level of exhaustion inherent in parenting that one can’t fathom until one experiences it — I still got accused for being a hater.
Shrug. So be it.
Life is tiring. While it’s perhaps more so for the parent than the non, we all — regardless of our vocational responsibilities — serve somebody. Whether we are caring for customers, patients, coworkers, family, or friends we are serving our neighbors. Day in. Day out. And that service can wear on us.
It wears on me. I’m sure it wears on you, too.
Plenty of folks tell me to rest, put my feet up, catch a nap, give myself a break, refresh, and recuperate. There seem to be constant reminders all around telling me that to be a better wife, mother, friend, Christian, coworker, whatever, I have to first care for myself. I have to be cared for before I can, in turn, care for others. I have to be filled before I can pour out. Or something like that.
Sounds well and good, I suppose, but to be completely honest, I struggle with these suggestions. My vocation is to be wife, mother, sister, friend, and more. I don’t want to be just another self-centered, navel gazer using this need for rest to justify shirking my vocational duties so I can catch some more sleep, soak in a hot bath, shop in solitude, write blog posts in peace, or whatever.
But see that? Pretty sure that’s my pendulum swinging a bit too far in the opposite direction.
In my attempts to resist the narcissistic, me-focused, mystic-plagued, heart-following culture that surrounds us — both in the secular world and in American Evangelicalism — I’ve gone so far to the opposite side that I now feel guilty for any time spent in rest. I resist rest, insisting I don’t need to care for myself, my faith, or my health in order to properly serve my neighbor. I’m sure my Old Adam has no problem seeing my self-sacrificing refusal to rest as somehow making me more holy than those other moms, other wives, other women who fit rest and self-care into their days.
Yet there’s part of the problem, perhaps. Too often we view rest as just one more thing we must do. We have to make time for ourselves, to carve out that me-time so we can care for ourselves. We have to place rest on our checklist for the day and then somehow prioritize it over something else on the agenda.
But what if we saw rest not as a to-do, but as a blessing from our Lord, a gift God provides and encourages (Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 33:14, Psalm 132:8,13-14, and more)? Like the daily bread He gives and the people He brings into our lives, the chances to rest and recuperate are blessings as well. The times to meditate on God’s Word allow us to better serve our family, friends, and neighbors. The times we have to exercise, to sleep, to simply be still are gifts that truly do allow us to better serve in the vocations He has called us into.
This isn’t about self-justifying our selfish tendencies to put our own needs and desires ahead of others, but rather about being relieved of the guilt that can so often burden us when our spouse blesses us with a chance to sleep in, our kids play sweetly in the other room so we can focus on our writing, or a friend offers to cook us a meal so we can put our swollen pregnant feet up. Just as God has given us multiple vocations in which we serve so many, He has placed people in our lives to serve us in return.
We won’t ever perfectly center our pendulum, but thanks be to God that He has provided us with neighbors to help us day in and day out, moments of rest so we can be refreshed and encouraged, and forgiveness in Christ when we fail to see these gifts for the blessings they are.