Rest for Your Souls
The last several weeks have been perfect for nurturing a martyr’s complex.
Truthfully, it's my own fault. As careful as I am to protect my husband’s schedule and ensure that he takes time away from his pastorate, I’m not as careful to protect my own. So that when we have several busy weeks like the ones we’ve had recently, I often feel a martyr’s complex creeping up; and more often than not, it’s directly related to the fact that I haven’t taken time to rest.
If you know me, you will know that I am by no means a perfectionist. (If you don’t know me, one unannounced visit to my house and you will quickly agree with those who do.) But despite having zero OCD tendencies, I do have a tendency to be busy all the time. I have a hard time saying no, a hard time winding down, and a hard time truly resting. Multi-tasking is a virtue, right?
Over the years, I’ve had to admit that this inability to stop is a weakness and have had to commit to cultivating quiet space in my life. I’ve had to learn that rest is an act of faith and accept that I can stop working precisely because I believe that God will work for me. What I hadn’t understood until recently—recently being just this last weekend—is that rest is also an act of self-control. It’s a way exercising dominion over your own schedule and your own body precisely because you are made in God’s image.
The first time that the Scripture mentions the concept of rest is when God rested after creating nothing less than the entire universe. Most of us understand that in doing this, He wasn't resting because He was tired, but He rested in order to model rest for us. And yet, something more was happening. By resting--by abstaining from work--God was also expressing a form of mastery, of purposefully limiting His creative power. He rested to show that He is not mastered by anything—even His own creativity.
Simply put, just because He could have done more didn’t mean He had to.
So that for us, His image bearers, resting is not only a form of trust, but it is also a way to reflect God’s own control. Resting is a way to express the freedom and power that He has given us through the gospel. Because when we actively stop, when we purposefully abstain from work, we declare that we are mastered by nothing but Him; we declare that we are no longer slaves to our baser selves. We are no longer driven our desires. We are no longer driven by our fears. We are no longer driven by the demands of those around us. Because unlike slaves, who have no control over their work or schedule, we can rest precisely because we serve only Christ Himself.
So when those feelings of helplessness, those feelings of being used, those feelings of martyrdom creep up inside you, you must not push them aside and soldier on. Instead you must take the opportunity to evaluate whether or not you have subjected yourself to something other than His kingship. Whether or not you have become enslaved to something or someone other than Christ Himself.
Because more often than not, this is precisely what we do and it is precisely why we don’t rest like we should. Often we don’t rest because we are driven by other people’s expectations or our own sense of perfectionism; and when we are, even our good works can become a form of slavery--with bitterness, discouragement, and martyr’s complexes the reward for our labor.
But this is not the call of Christ.
When Christ calls, He calls us to full-humanity--to be conformed to nothing but His perfect image, to allow His nature to mold and shape our own. So that when we follow Him, He promises that our souls—just like His--will be free from the weight, free from the strain, free from the feeling of being driven like a pack-animal. Instead He will replace our spirits of fear with spirits of power and love and self-control. And in this new-found freedom, when we are no longer mastered by anything but Him, we will finally and truly find rest for our souls.