Freedom to Rest

By Reverend John C. Lin

A generation from now, people will puzzle over how we greet one another in the modern West, circa 21st century. Chinese speakers might ask “Have you eaten?” to assess physical well-being. French speakers might ask “Is it going well?” to assess whether life is smooth and comfortable. For lawyers and other professionals, or for those preparing for similar careers, the customary (almost predominant) response to “How are you?” is “busy.” We might add detail like “crazy busy” or “fine but busy,” and rarely will the response be “well-rested” or “content.” It is a self-revelation not of our experience of well-being but our level of activity . . . “busy.” It is an odometer or heart rate reading for the state of our lives.

One natural human instinct is to cling to that which validates us. I’m important because I’m wealthy. I’m comfortable because my family is near. I’m content because my peers respect me. And in this case, “I’m valuable because I’m busy.” Yet while this is a common sentiment, deeper reflection shows how distorted it is. If I were to ask my daughter, “what do you want to be when you grow up” and her responses were “happy,” “successful,” or “influential,” none of those would be out of the ordinary. I don’t know how I would respond if she told me, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be crazy busy!”

One of the seminal moments of Israel’s history is the giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments, part of a larger complex of events, namely the Exodus, emancipation from Egyptian slavery. Curiously, as part of this new freedom, Israel is given a set of laws and regulations for how to live. Why? It’s because if generations of your ancestors had lived in slavery, you would need some direction on how to live in light of your newly found freedom. You’d need reminders, not of what you weren’t supposed to do, but what you could now do, that you couldn’t do before.

Honor your parents, which you could not do under slavery when many would be separated from their families at birth. Do not steal, which was not relevant to those under slavery because they were not around others who owned property. Honor the Sabbath, which was not an option under slavery when you did not have the choice as to when to work. This weekly rhythm of work and rest served as a reminder that only the truly free can rest. 

As we reflect on the importance of rest as law students, lawyers, and anyone in the frenetic pace of this age, may our freedom to rest and worship remind us that there’s no more need to validate ourselves by the constant churn of activity or the endless hamster wheel bound for nowhere. No more need to clamor to attain the next elusive accolade. No more need to seek to impress others of our value based on a full schedule. No more need to try to convince ourselves that we are someone because we don’t have free time.

Jesus promises us rest. He invites us to come to Him, not because He has no yoke or that He promises a life of inactivity and leisure, but because in carrying His yoke, we find rest. It’s His work of death and resurrection that validates us. And it’s in Him, that we are no longer weary, but find true rest.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)

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