ISO rest on Labor Day weekend

As Labor Day weekend approaches, the Minnesota Public Radio weather forecaster has been telling us about the beautiful three-day weekend we have ahead — picture-perfect for the last hurrah of summer … lakes … parks … picnics … boating …

I know the Minnesota winter is on its way, but the idea that I should be dashing about, packing in some last gasp of warm-weather fun makes me feel tired.

This is partly pandemic fatigue talking, but it’s also our year of transition, from West Coast to Northern Plains, catching up with me. A year ago today we drove away from our life in Vancouver, Washington. Since then, we’ve been settling our son into school, lessons, teams and, yes, new weather patterns, and all of us into our new home, neighborhood, extended family and community.

One thing we did right this past year was schedule an October weekend getaway at my friend Anna Madsen’s Spent Dandelion Theological Retreat Center in Two Harbors, Minnesota. Little did I know, the Spent Dandelion and, by extension, my family, would end up in a story titled “The Spiritual Discipline of Rest.” (You can find it in the August issue of Living Lutheran.)

We are not exactly poster children for rest, as our calendars and to-do lists mushroom with appointments and ideas. We must imagine ourselves having more than twenty-four hours in our days, more than seven days in our weeks. Of course maybe that does actually make us poster children for rest.

Regardless, the Living Lutheran story circles around the idea that rest is a spiritual discipline and brings in the perspectives of several theologians, writers and church leaders.

One, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, a professor of theological and social ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, is quoted saying, “We get seduced and sucked into constant activity, and a lot of it is good, worthy, important activity, but it obliterates space for rest. I really think that the capacity to hear the Spirit and to [flourish] as a person are built partly by having rest.” 

Another, Anthony Bateza, an assistant professor of religion at St. Olaf College (Anna’s and my alma mater — um yah yah!), shares that there’s an ancient Greek and medieval concept describing people who are overly busy with needless work. It’s called “polypragomsyne,” and, according to Bateza, Martin Luther was critical of such behavior and encouraged people instead to find rest in God’s grace.

Since reading the Living Lutheran piece, I’ve become a bit self-conscious of my customary greeting, which long has been “How are you doing?” What does that question say about what I value?

I’ve begun to think the more important question is simply “How are you?”

Or maybe even, “Are you finding time for rest?” It’s a question I should tape to our bathroom mirror.

Here’s wishing you rest this Labor Day weekend.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

6 thoughts on “ISO rest on Labor Day weekend

  1. I love the irony of wishing rest on Labor Day. When I was young, Sunday was the day of rest, after church and a midday dinner, of course. There were no stores open, no restaurants or theaters open, no offices open either. My family took long rides in the country, went to a park to walk, or walked in the snow together from home in the winter, played games inside and later in the day, ate leftovers from midday dinner. We also read to each other and when we finally had a TV, watched some programs together. It was different from any other day during the week and as a kid, I looked forward to it because we were all together (only sometimes with relatives) and it seemed to me like a way of gathering energy and support for the week ahead. We were not unusual. Everyone I knew did the same thing—maybe it was an eastern
    idea. I grew up in Buffalo N.Y.
    Have a restful Labor Day! carolann

  2. I really appreciate your writing today, and it resonates with what I was reading this morning. In Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D’s “Women Who Run with Wolves”, she writes, “We all face this issue, for we hope that if we work hard and have a high holy quest, we will come up with something or other that will–flash!–make everything orderly forever.” Hence the seduction that you mentioned to fill one’s world to overflowing with lists of good works. The concept of rest, while intellectually I know is critical, emotionally feels less valid to doing the good work. It’s a process for sure, but one that takes time to adopt. Thank you for the reminder that resting is good work for the self to thrive. And that “orderly forever” is an illusion. Boy-howdy, that sure would be nice though! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Kim. Wow, “orderly forever” … I can’t even dream it! But I completely understand the idea that rest feels “less valid to doing the good work.” Still, I believe rest is the missing ingredient not only for our thriving as individuals but also for our work.

      My first year of graduate school, for a degree in creative writing, ended in what felt like disaster. I had completely overdone it: In addition to diving into the demands of coursework, I held down a position writing for University Relations and taught a couple of first-year composition classes at a local liberal arts college. After spring quarter ended and as I was settling into the slower pace of summer, I had my first migraine, which kicked off a lingering complication that made it almost impossible for me to look at a computer screen or be near fluorescent lights. In my world of reading, writing, lesson-planning and communicating, this was a problem.

      I had little choice but to take the fall quarter off from school, work, my other work – everything. The only thing I let myself read was the newspaper’s funny page (on paper) and cookbooks. While my husband worked, I listened to audio books and tried my hand at painting. I paged through recipes and walked to the grocery store daily. I met the neighbors, gardened and rested.

      Meanwhile, new writing ideas began percolating in my mind. Once my migraine situation stabilized, I returned to a more reasonable workload with renewed creative energy that propelled my writing forward. The ideas that had emerged during that period of rest completely changed the direction, style and content of my work — for the better.

      I try to hang onto the lessons of that period, when I learned that being a human being is as important as — or, actually, more important than — being a human doing. But it’s a constant struggle. The doing seems more acceptable. More valid. Safer.

      But whether we’re talking about being or doing, I believe regular rest is the secret sauce that feeds our souls and helps us become who we are meant to be.

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