Recently, I’ve begun thinking that I may be too tired to be a Christian. Trying to juggle my PhD program, my husband’s home-based business start-up, a ten-month old who doesn’t like taking naps or sleeping generally, a Great Dane puppy, renovation work on our house and garden, day-to-day tasks like cooking, cleaning, gardening, and delightful visits from family and friends means that I have very little energy at the start of the day (let alone the end of the day) to engage the life of biblical faith as it is generally practiced.
I feel, in other words, that the life of faith―even as it permeates every bit of who we are and what we do such that it isn’t really an additional activity but a sort of disposition or way of living―still has this sort of intellectual burden that goes with it, a sort of responsibility to think well about life and to ponder life’s “big questions.” A faith that fails to engage in this constant, high-level way risks becoming (or being caricatured) as mindless, unthinking, or naive. My problem is that after processing the daily stimuli of this busy world, the Christian faith often adds another level of processing–and then pondering–information and ideas through activities like prayer and reflection, reading and studying the bible, going to church, and thinking more fully and deeply about how to live well. Thus, I feel too tired to be a Christian.
As I muster up the energy to reflect on my predicament a bit more, I remember Jesus’s words to his disciples in Matthew: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden light” (11-28-30). We must be attentive to the exact invitation that Jesus is offering in this passage because the invitation is far more specific we might at first think. The invitation is a call to the “weary” (or those who labor, in some translations) and an invitation to rest. First and foremost, whatever the Christian faith looks like, it is not an invitation to intellectual, moral, ethical, spiritual, physical laziness: it is an invitation issued for those who are already working, thinking, doing and exhausted from it! The invitation to rest also assumes the context of work and activity–one can hardly rest from doing nothing.
The monastic tradition has always emphasized prayer, work and rest and St. Benedict even said that nothing was to be preferred to the work of God, which for him meant the communal prayer of the liturgy (Rule 43.3). Playing off this tradition, many people speak of prayer as work and others have gone so far as to say that “to work is to pray,” in the sense of doing good work well, for the glory of God and for the sake of the world. It is true that the Christian life is about living in a vibrant way that fully engages the world God made and that he loves. That said, the Christian faith is not simply about reading more, thinking more, going to more, doing more―it is also about rest. Thus, I would like to suggest that “to rest” can also be “to pray” and that prayer must be rest as as well as work. One could say that the notion of faith is actually this idea of “rest.” It is the point at which we can set aside the big questions that trouble our minds and chores that demands our energy and rest, trusting God to take care of the world, to someday answer the hard questions, and to still love us after we wake up from a nice, long nap.