Meeting Jesus Through Rest: Lent 2024

To be able to see Jesus with fresh eyes, it is very helpful to be well rested. The need to rest is both natural and sacred, but often it doesn't come easily. Jesus slept during the storm (Mark 4:38), but also almost every single day in his full humanity. There are countless verses about finding rest in the Lord, but so often we view the need to rest as a weakness, a hinderance to our productivity, rather than something sanctified. I used to view praying as another box of my daily to-do list that needed ticking, and approaching it with that attitude often meant that it often felt impersonal and ultimately, a chore, meaning it wasn't restful in reality. Then, a couple of years ago I said compline for the first time with a group and it resonated with me so deeply that using Evening Prayer (usually via the Time To Pray app) has become my grounding almost every day.

Many nights while I pray, my eyes are far from fresh. I have stayed up too late, and remember to open the app while my eyelids fight to stay open. Other times, I have had far too much energy, in a positive way or in an anxious way, and taking the time to listen to the recording helps ground me. Either way, I am in search of a quiet night and perfect end, and with that in mind, I open my time of evening prayer. Some days I read it aloud myself, sometimes I listen to the audio and say the responses out loud, but most days I lie still and the words float over me. I often struggle to read scripture and not pick it apart, wanting to google different views of certain passages. Whilst this theological urge is good in the right occasion it's not so conducive for getting a good night's sleep, which is why I allow the Bible readings from the audio to pass over me without interrogation. With this practice, I deepen my relationship with Christ each and every day, and spiritually prepare for the next day, when I will have the chance to see Jesus through fresher eyes.

Following the pattern of daily prayer has made me so grateful for the opportunity to rest. Whilst sleep is an essential aspect of resting, prioritising rest is much more than banking hours of shut-eye. It is important to recognise that rest is treated as a luxury by modern capitalism, when it is actually a necessity for us all. Tricia Hersey's 'Nap Ministry' centres on the importance of rest for Black women in America, suffering from generational exhaustion, and a strive towards the unravelling from white supremacy and capitalism. Her book Rest is Resistance opened my eyes to the realities of the consequences of the inequality of rest, and how to connect theologies of liberation with the concept of rest. Everyone should have the right to rest, and yet it is not something that is prioritised by our institutions, and perhaps not even by churches or ourselves. Rest is disrupted by pain, by worry, by exploitative forces, and recognising this can demonstrate to us that a different world can be imagined. Catching quick moments with Christ as another tick of a box feeds into our learned drive towards being 'productive' without careful consideration. As Hersey argues, rest is radical. Without proper rest, how can we continue to see God afresh each day?

Written by Niamh Hardman. Niamh is a Religions & Theology student at The University of Manchester. She is interested in all things Liberation Theology, intergenerational community projects, and is a keen promotor of amateur dramatics.