On Rest

I watched a documentary this week on ESPN about an incredible basketball player, Maya Moore. Maya played at UConn. She has won high school, NCAA, WNBA, and even Chinese league professional titles. She’s been the WNBA MVP. Maya Moore has been called the best basketball player. Not female player. The best player.

She is this remarkable athlete and also a genuinely good person. And she plays the game of basketball with a grace and ability that few humans are ever able to master in any field. I’ve never heard Yo Yo Ma play the violin, nor seen Frida Kahlo paint. But I imagine that watching Maya play is like watching Yo-Yo Ma or Frida do the amazing artistic things they do.

I have seen Pedro Martinez pitch a masterful game. I watched him strike out 15 Orioles one night in Baltimore when he threw a 2 hit shutout for the Red Sox. The ball flowed from his hand like water that night. Seamless. Easy. With movement like breaking waves you could see in the stands. Watching that performance, even Orioles fans gave him a standing ovation. We all knew we had seen greatness.

Maya Moore plays basketball the same way.

She just flows, like water, and makes incredible things happen without making it look at all difficult.

And so it was quite a surprise when in 2018, at 28 years old and the absolute height of her career, she decided to take a break to “rest.”

I actually highly recommend the documentary, Breakaway, which goes into a lot of details about what she’s doing and why.

But it’s this idea of resting that I want to, well, rest on, today.

This week I asked everyone a question in the Newsletter. I asked, what does it mean to rest?

            I did so because the word “rest” just kind of jumped off the page at me each time I read the Gospel for this week.

            When words stand out like that, especially words of Scripture, I try to sit with them. And so this week I tried to sit with the word Rest.

            And here’s what I think:

            I think we live in a world that has somehow put a premium on being exhausted. Working hard, at certain jobs, is seen as a status symbol.

            And yet, being tired is genuinely frowned upon.

            In the Gospel today we have a story where Jesus is doing his best to make time for his disciples and himself to rest.

            And in a moment that clearly demonstrates to me that 1st century life did have some things in common with modern life, Jesus couldn’t find time to break away from work in order to rest.

            Things just needed to get done. Things he enjoyed doing. Healing, teaching, caring. And yet, he was tired.

            Jesus didn’t have time to rest.

            I don’t think I’m alone in also feeling like there are times, maybe even most of the time, when I don’t have time to rest.

            There’s always more to do.

            In the course of the pandemic we’ve all had our schedules and daily lives thrown for a loop. In that time many of us have been able to reevaluate the things that matter most. To reprioritize the things that we love and enjoy.

            But, as the pandemic dragged on and as we’ve gone back to commuting and other time-consuming pre-pandemic behaviors, those rediscovered priorities have taken a backseat to the things that need to get done.

            Part of why I brought up Maya Moore in the beginning is because she did a remarkable thing. Not just stepping away for a season, now 3 seasons, to rest. In her time away Maya took a look at her life priorities, and she realized that for her in this moment of time, pursuing criminal justice reform and using her notoriety to bring about change, at first for one wrongly convicted man, and now to change the criminal justice system, is more important than playing basketball.

            The man that Maya helped free from prison, Jonathan Irons, had been wrongfully convicted of a crime when he was 16. Upon his release Jonathan said that he wants to help others, but first, he said ne needs to rest.

            We can only give what we have to give. If we don’t rest, we simply don’t have much to give.

            Resting is part of how we love ourselves.

            Allowing others time and space to rest is how we love others as ourselves.

            In a world where we are inundated, constantly, with information and stimulation, taking a moment to rest is remarkably hard to do.

            We have to find a way to do it anyway.

            Jesus didn’t rest in this story the way he’d planned. But we know from other stories in Scripture that he was very intentional about taking time to rest, meditate, pray, and to connect with people in a way that recharged him. Healing and ministry took a lot out of him, he could feel when his power was diminished. So Jesus made sure to rest and recharge to allow him to keep doing his work.

            We all need to be connected enough with ourselves to know when we are getting low and need to rest and recharge.           

            It’s when we run out that we make decisions that we aren’t proud of, maybe do things that hurt ourselves or others. Or maybe when we are truly exhausted we can’t do the things that we absolutely must do.

            We need to rest. To prioritize, and to rest. And, at the same time, make space for the people we love to rest as well. We must rest even though that means we will be left with our own thoughts. We might even be bored.

            This is possibly the hardest thing I have asked of you all yet, to rest.

            But if we can, if we can find time to recharge, relax, reconnect, to rest, then we will be better prepared to do the work God calls us to do.

            I don’t want to look busy when Jesus comes back.

            I want to be ready.

            Rest is how to become ready.

            Let’s be ready.



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