The fight has gone out of summer. Burnt out, she’s throwing in the towel and bathing peacefully in luxurious colour. You see and hear signs everywhere: rest.
You hear voices calling for the economy to slow down and take a rest after years of frenetic, out of control spending. Low inventories with inflated costs have been unable to keep pace, forcing us to relax and do with less.
If that’s not enough, you reflect on the record high temperatures this year, how they've exacted a toll on human life. The climate is telling us the earth is exhausted and desperately needs a break from our rampant consumption of its resources. And then there are people killing each other everywhere while the world cries, “Stop! Give it a rest!”
On my walk, the dog is taking his time, and rather than pulling him along, I sit on a bench and take a deep breath. It feels good. Next to me on the bench, I find an abandoned footrest from someone’s wheelchair. (Even a rest is taking a rest.) I feel metal against my back--a plaque on the bench dedicated to a lost loved one with the familiar prayer that she rest in peace. The rattle of the leaves overhead recalls that life is short, so rest for a moment and take it in. The message is everywhere: Rest.
Rest can make us nervous. It takes a while to downshift and slow the heart rate. With rest, we also come face to face with an uncomfortable truth. Our appetite for more, our rabid pace, our fighting, have all come at a cost to millions of neglected and innocent people, who are restless simply because they do not have enough to live.
As I’m sitting with all this, I can’t help chewing over these words from Jesus: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” I imagine him speaking to a mixed crowd of haves and have nots, both the powerful and the powerless, while he audaciously presents himself as the answer to everyone’s deepest yearning to be unburdened and loved.
Then, in the same breath Jesus gives his remedy: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . . and you will find rest for your souls.” Offering a yoke as rest—so counter-intuitive and scandalous. What I gather is he’s offering himself as a life-partner and mentor. A look at his life demonstrates this. He remained yoked with God, pulling together in the same direction, reliant on God to sustain him with all he needed. And, in turn, he offers himself in the same way to his audience. Friendship, true rest, relief from our anxious, frenzied lives. We can share our load and stop running. We are loved.
So amid all the restless voices, I hear this other gentle voice from another place with an invitation to ease the burden and anxieties of the day. As well, I hear a challenge to come alongside a restless traveler who needs to know they’re not alone. I'll take that.