Don’t know how to rest?

This is a guest post by Joyce delRosario, executive director of New Creation Home Ministries, a ministry for young mothers ages 13-22. She also happens to be one of my ministerial heroes, friend and the person who speaks deeply into my life to cheerlead and tell me when I am off track. Her words carry weight. Let them sink in lest you miss what God is saying through her. 

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Who Do You Work For?

Driving to a baby shower, staring at the bridge I was crossing and the San Francisco Bay on either side, I found my mind on overdrive.  I picked up my phone to catch every thought:

-Siri, message Sheila ‘are we still on for Friday lunch?’

-Siri, set reminder to email Debra about tutoring opportunity

-Siri, listen to my messages

-Siri, set event for Thursday at 1pm ‘meet with Gail’.

-Siri, call Dan and set day for table host meeting at his house.

And so on and so on.  My drive to the baby shower was full of commanding the lowest paid administrator in the world. Poor Siri. By the time I got to the shower I had given Siri…I mean me, a long list of commands that would take a week to accomplish.

Oh well, at least I can set work aside and be social right? As soon as I stepped in the door,  I was reacquainted with people who had come to my fundraising events from years past.  Sometimes we can’t take off our ministry hats even when we want to. Over finger food and cake pops, we chatted about kids and New Creation Home Ministries and all the usual topics.  Then the question came up, “When do you usually work?”  My answer, “I try to keep it Monday through Friday from 9 to 9.  But we’re a 24/7 ministry so that doesn’t always work.”

Their smiles turned to looks of concern. What?  I thought I was doing well by keeping it Monday through Friday.  I found myself trying to justify a failing argument, “It’s Silicon Valley. Everyone works a lot here…it’s in my DNA, my grandmother was in a hospital bed, working on her bookkeeping for the ministry she runs in the Philippines!  It’s in my blood!” I’ve justified my work habits in others ways too.  Remember Paul? I didn’t picture him resting much as he shared the Gospel to the world.  Plus, I’m single so I don’t have anyone pulling me to come home to.  What else do I have to do with my time?

And then there’s my Things To Do list.  This started in high school, when I used to carry a thick leather bound planner everywhere I went. Someone once challenged me that it was more important to me then the Bible. They were right and I did not change. Years later that leather bound planner is now neatly wrapped up in my phone and it goes by the name Siri. I use a calendar app and a reminder list to keep my thoughts straight.  I judge whether or not I have a good day based on how much I was able to accomplish.  When I wake up in the morning I give myself a set of goals to accomplish that day and if I miss anything on the list I have failed. Yup…failed.  The list is what drives me.  Every item I check off, my breath gets a little deeper and I am one step closer to putting my mind to rest.

The thing is, that list never ends. I drive to a baby shower and add 20 more items to tackle the next day.  If I’m honest, the list is everything.  My productivity is the way I judge myself, the way I value myself.  I realized that I am not working for the Lord.  I am working for myself.  What started out as a virtuous answer to God’s call on my life to be in ministry became a self -appointing, self-evaluating exercise in working to prove my worth. My busyness is the way people value me.  If I’m busy it looks like I’m changing the world right?  If I’m busy then at least that justifies why people donate to the ministry I’m a part of.  If I’m busy then I look more important somehow.  Important people are busy people. No one ever thought the dude taking a nap on the couch was important right?

But Jesus tells me, “Rest.”  No seriously.  In my quiet times just 2 days ago I heard God telling me to rest.  “My grace is sufficient for you”. And you know what I did? I retold that word from the Lord to my staff as I typed away on the computer in the office.

By this point you may be wondering what’s wrong with me.  Or you may be arm chair psychoanalyzing me.  That’s fine.  Leave your comments below and save me the therapy cost.

Yes I know the importance of Sabbath. Yes I know this is the expressway to burnout (I’ve been doing this same thing for over 20 years by the way).  And yes…yes I have burned out on several occasions.  And yes I do know that Jesus went away to pray.

Here’s the scary thing about this whole confession I’m doing; I have no idea how to rest. I mean it. I read books.  I watch tv and movies while laying on the couch. I go out with friends on occasion to dinner. I play volleyball on Sundays (Okay, not this year but I will soon).  I do quiet times with the Lord. I exercise on a regular basis.  I travel when I can.  The closest moments of refreshing, relaxing rest I have experienced are at the end of a yoga session when they have you just lay there still for a minute or two. But somehow none of this answers my true need for rest.

As I prayed about this problem on my way home from the baby shower I realized that my need to find rest is not about finding the right activity or inactivity to participate in.  It’s about working for the right person…and that person ain’t  me and I hate to tell you, it ain’t you either.  In order to truly find a proper rhythm of life and work I must understand and embrace the One I work for.

I realized that need to work is a need to find security in my worth. And my need to find worth in my work is an area of restlessness that I have yet to turn over to the Lord.  When I can turn over my identity and self-worth to the Lord and allow God to define my day, value my worth and order my steps then I can operate in a shalom far greater than any checklist can offer.  I heard it right before, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of my checklist just yet or do away with any vision planning I have been working on. I am however ready to realign my org chart and work on remembering who should be directing my next step. It sounds easy and almost cliché to let Jesus take the wheel, but if we’re honest with ourselves it’s not.  Our sinful nature makes it difficult to easily let this happen.  I don’t want to wait till I have no other choice but to let Jesus take control.  Those instances always seem to be painful lessons.  Tomorrow is Thursday and I have every intention to rest in the One who calls me to work His way and not mine.

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About Amy Jacober

Amy Jacober (PhD, Fuller Seminary) is a youth ministry veteran with ministry and teaching experience. She focuses on practical theology, urban ministry, theology & disability, and marginalized communities. She is a volunteer youth worker in her church and community, lead consultant with Youth Ministry Architects and serves on the Young Life Capernaum national board. In her free time she can be found playing with her three young children, husband, and oversized dog.