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BY MISSY SMITH

August 4, 2021
Rest is resistance, pushing back on systems that will kill us if given opportunity.
Photo from https://thenapministry.wordpress.com
Simone Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from Olympic finals last week, citing prioritization of her mental and physical health - via USA Today

“The promise to enter the place of rest is still good, and we must take care that none of you miss out. We have heard the message, just as they did. But they failed to believe what they heard, and the message did not do them any good." - Hebrews‬ ‭4:1-2‬ 

 

“After the apostles returned to Jesus, they told him everything they had done and taught. But so many people were coming and going that Jesus and the apostles did not even have a chance to eat. Then Jesus said, “Let's go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.” They left in a boat for a place where they could be alone.” - ‭‭Mark‬ ‭6:30-32‬

The concept of rest is mentioned over 40 times in the New Testament. Jesus clearly prioritized the practice of getting away and taking time to refresh between periods of busy and taxing ministry. To our own detriment, our culture has grown to look down on the idea of rest, labeling it as laziness or waste. Those who learn to read their own needs and advocate for their own rest are stigmatized, called weak. This week we have watched this play out on the international stage as Simone Biles withdrew from Olympic gymnastics events to honor her physical and mental well-being. Celebrities and elected officials predictably lambasted Biles, and I am sure we all heard the mix of support and criticism of Biles’ decision in our own circles.

This situation reminded me of a sermon that our pastor, Mary Alice Birdwhistle, gave at Highland Baptist Church on July 18 (audio available here, transcript here). Based on the gospel reading from that week’s liturgy (Mark 6:30-34), Mary Alice stated, “There is something about resting and being with Jesus that directly impacts the way in which we are sent out to do the work of Jesus. There is something about rest that allows us to be formed and transformed to do the things God is calling us to do – and to be the people God is calling us to be…The question we might ask ourselves this morning is: how often do you and I intentionally take time to do what Jesus instructs the disciples do here? How often do we truly rest and allow ourselves to be renewed for whatever it is God is calling us toward? Or do we just keep going at such a fast past until we’re exhausted, and then we crash, and repeat the cycle all over again?”

How have the toxic systems around us convinced us that we are only as valuable as what we produce?  How have we bought in to that lie in our own lives, and therefore ignore our inner voice that tells us we need to sit down for a while and just be?  

Simone Biles’ assertion that she heard from her body and knew she needed to take a seat to protect her physical and mental health, and then the bravery she showed in listening to that discernment, is an inspiration. I pray that each of us learns from this example. She is more than what she produces in the gym.  You are more than what you produce at work and in your various activities.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the obvious truth that we, as a nation, feel that we have the right to tell Black women what to do with their bodies. Racism is this nation’s original sin, and is inextricably linked to our reactions here. It is again our opportunity and challenge:  believe Black women. Trust Black women. Protect Black women.

Rest is resistance, pushing back on systems that will kill us if given opportunity. Our Creator has told us how our bodies were meant to operate: with rest and regular refreshing. They also gave us the ability to read and discern our physical needs. Let us honor ourselves and these gifts from our Creator, and rest without shame.

Visit the Nap Ministry to learn more about the renewal available to us when we step out of the dangerous systems that lie to us about the source of our worth.

Take a moment to meditate over this poem by Hannah Drake

The world is stunned when Black women put themselves first.

God who restores us and invites us to rest,

We name our propensity to overwork, and to take pride in our exhaustion. We also name that we want to turn away from this cycle that steals our joy. Remind us, Creator, that we are more than what we do.  

We thank you for courageous and wise examples like Simone Biles. May her actions bring the concepts of mindfulness and rest into the public dialogue, and become real in each of our lives.

Amen.

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