The Gift of Rest and Leisure
Earlier this week I had a chance to break away and go on a picnic with my family at Lake Waco. As I was laying there on the blanket, watching my kids run and play, feeling the sun against my face, admiring the peaceful surroundings, I began to realize that I was experiencing something that most people in orange or post-orange hardly ever get to experience. Rest and Leisure. For many, this may just be a luxury, but for all of us it is a necessity. However, millions of people have been stripped of or thwarted in their opportunities to truly enjoy the needed gift of rest and leisure.
We were all created as rhythmic beings. No, not drumbeat, musical rhythms (I would be exhibit A of missing out on that gift!). I am talking about the rhythms of our bodies, minds, and spirits. One of these rhythms is rest and leisure. We were created in a manner that requires, that longs for, true rest and rejuvenating leisure. God gave humankind the sabbath, a day for us to slow down, relax, move away from things that distract and tear down and wear us out. I have learned the hard way about protecting my sabbath, my rest and leisure, a rhythm so crucial to the vitality of my soul. But I have that luxury, that opportunity. I am not locked up in prison, shackled by criminal records, in the chains of poverty. Millions are, and they suffer for it because sabbath is stolen from them. The gift of rest and leisure is not one they are allowed to rhythmically receive as we all desperately need.
I have visited death row. I saw the cage that is the “recreation” space for inmates. A very small square with thick iron walls with holes that allow for very little light to enter on all four sides and the ceiling. Animals would go crazy in a space like this. Yet, this is where we force already broken human beings to seek any possible rest and leisure they need. I read an account yesterday about a man who was exonerated recently after spending 30 years on death row in Angola Prison in Louisiana (fascinating, eye-opening story). He was innocent — one of the 1 out of 9 who have been found to be innocent on death row in the U.S. This man stated that he had not been outside for 7 years! Prison officials had so restricted the outdoor activities of the men on death row that he considered the exercise futile.
The dehumanization and devastation to God’s beloved creation runs deep, and our playing God over these beautiful creations destroys not just their humanity but ours as well.
And I have to add that there are millions more who suffer from this dehumanizing theft of rest and leisure. They are the poor and marginalized, who live in a reality that most of us who are privileged have no clue about. I can’t say it any better than Linda did in a post titled This is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense. And read more about Linda here.
Today I celebrate a God who so wisely and compassionately created us for rest and leisure. I am convicted at the same time of my own neglect of this gracious gift, as well as my complicity in a social order that steals rest from and kills leisure for the poor and marginalized and incarcerated. I also celebrate the author of my faith, Jesus, who shows us the way to solidarity, to a place where we might understand and experience and suffer with those who are dehumanized by rest-theft. By living with and among, by making our lives proximate to the poor and oppressed, we might know how precious this gift is, our hearts might find conviction and our souls a compulsion to love our neighbor by helping to restore the necessary opportunity and acceptance of the gift of rest and leisure. And in this way we may all find our refuge in the shadow of Love’s wings.
Jesus beckons us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest…”