Did you make any? Have you broken any already? I was scrolling through Instagram this week and I saw some inspirational photos from people choosing their words for the year, my email inbox pinged with a leader wanting me to buy their goal setting course, I keep seeing another blog post on plans and goals and words. And truthfully I avoid them. I squirm in my seat, I feel all the ‘shoulds’: “oh yes that’s a good word, I should choose that for my year”, “I should be setting goals, making plans” and then I feel guilt and maybe I just need to start a bullet journal or a new planner or if I just hustle hard I’ll win the year!
Perhaps like me you’ve seen people choose words or make goals and thought “oh I should do that”, “I need that in my life”, “I want to be more like that”. The fomo or foblb (-fear of being left behind, did I just make that acronym up?) is strong. I’m not criticising resolutions or plans or goals, they are not bad things to do in themselves. I’m just interested in my response to them. The truth is, statically (according to Google) only 46% of new years resolutions will be kept past six months. And even if we make our goals SMART we will miss some or have to adjust them at some point to keep on track. There will be things out of our control that will make a mockery of our best laid plans.
I don’t make resolutions. Some might say it’s because I don’t have enough faith in myself, some might say I’m not driven or ambitious enough. Maybe there’s some truth in that, I prefer to think it’s because I try to hold things lightly. I do have some plans to do that I know I will get done, and I have some vague ideas about health and exercise but the truth is I hate letting myself down, and I’m too aware of my laziness and faults to believe that this year I will be drastically different. Knowing my propensity to be too hard on myself, I try to make all plans and goals through the filter of kindness. The key to keeping resolutions? Only make resolutions that you really want to keep. And sometimes even if we really want to keep them, circumstances out of our control may still stop us.
But there is one resolution that I know I will keep, and I know you will too, even if you have not made it yet. I’m pretty sure you will be resolute about this. And it’s not because I’m a wise, mind reading, psychology expert, (although I had you fooled for a bit there – no?!) it’s really that this resolution is built into us. You can not beat this resolution, your body will keep this resolution for you. And that is the resolution to rest.
This time of year is the busiest time of year for holiday booking and as the deals come out, we look to our next big break for motivation to get through the next period of work. However much a workaholic you are, I can pretty much guarantee at some point this year you will sleep. At some point your body will need to sit down. It is built into our physicality that we need to rest and we will be resolute about making that happen in some form. Rest is written into the diary of our year, into the DNA of our body, but somehow it doesn’t always solve our need for soul rest. We are weary of life, we get burned out, tired is the new malaise of our lives. We are even wearing our busyness like a merit badge. As if the busier we are, the more important we are or the more value or purpose we must have. Busyness has become a competition for worthiness.
The practice of rest can become a sort of religion, we DO it. It’s scheduled in to our weekends, our time off work. But true soul rest can not be DONE. Even in our stops, our vacations, we fit in more doing. In our recreation time we find more things to learn to do, in our holidays we seek out more places to visit and learn about and in themselves this is not bad, and can even be rest for our bodies and minds. But real rest for our souls is not found in making, doing, going.
Real soul rest is in the knowing, in our being that we can do nothing, no good works, no spiritual practice, no extra reading of the bible, no longer or more eloquent prayers, no more sinning less to save our soul. We can not be more good, be more giving, be more important in other’s opinions of us, be more successful, take more time off work. Real soul rest is in the grace of God, knowing that our soul can just be, we can rest in the everlasting arms of our comforter and know we are safe, rested, whole. We have no need to impress, to be something or someone, we are enough because he made us, and for that reason only. And he loves us truly unconditionally.
Have you known someone who radiates, oozes this calm presence of God’s spirit? An unforced aura of well-being, a lack of need to impress. A lack of need to be important in other people eyes? Someone who seems to see into and care about you and your inmost being, no matter who you are? They have no presence of hurry or hustle, they seem rested, and lacking in fear. When we are people who walk in this rest, who walk in this realisation of grace, we leak his spirit. We have a confidence and a presence that is spiritual. And it is deeply attractive to weary souls.
In the creation story we read God rested, we know we need to rest and we know that when we rest in his presence it is restoring for our soul. Our soul needs this rest. It needs rest from the pressure of life. Rest from the feeling of needing to be something, to achieve something.
This year I pray that you and I receive the rest our souls need. May we receive the rest for our souls that comes from his Grace. The grace of Jesus that means we can do nothing in our own strength to receive the gift of forgiveness, and abundant life, true rest for our souls. This unconditional love that God has for us. Soulful rest that is un-hurried by the need to produce, soul rest in the knowledge that our identity and purpose are created by and sustained by God. Soul rest that is a surrender to and dependence upon God. I pray that we can sit and give our burdens to God, we can leave the heavy weights we are carrying at the foot of his cross. He sees our soul tired heaviness.
May our resolution be to receive real soul rest, the one resolution it is possible to keep.
These are some verses from the Bible I treasure on how the Father helps our soul to rest in him.
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11: 28-29
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:18
Truly my soul finds rest in God; My salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1
Exodus 33:14, Exodus 34:21, Psalm 62:5, Psalm 16:9-10, Psalm 116:7
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