I have a weird relationship with rest, I’m not sure how to do it and I think that is quite embarrassing. I understand it theoretically but practically it seems evasive. I understand that everything must re-charge, everything must rest, and that even Jesus rested but for some reason, it’s so hard to find.
To trace it back, I will say my concept of busy came from childhood; anyone who grew up as the first girl child in an African home knows that it is an extreme sport with lots of expectations. To add fire to the gasoline, growing up as my mother’s child added another layer of pressure. I think I was the only 7-year-old on the playground that knew the meaning of the word “mediocre” because we were taught to ruthlessly drive it out. I grew up feeling and knowing that I could NEVER be mediocre, that I could never play it safe or God forbid be an average person. This thought process meant that I ALWAYS had to strive for the best; and even if I failed that was fine as long as I learned quickly, adapted, and tried again because NOT trying, was not an option. Fast forward to "grown-up" Ibiyemi from 3 years ago…… I had fully embraced and glorified “busy” + “high productivity” as a lifestyle and an expectation because it paid off in this 21st century “fast-paced” world but I was NOT happy. It took me living with low-grade anxiety, mental exhaustion, physical pain, and health issues to realize that “busy” wasn’t worth it. But how do I unlearn something that has been part of my life for decades?
I started the journey of unlearning by looking at the words and thoughts I lived by. I found out that I was raised to be uber-productive but what I didn’t know was that there were a lot of consequences/ trade-offs to it, and I only saw the good parts. My mom used to say things like “what you can do today, do today” meaning don’t procrastinate, however, I translated that as “do everything today” loooool. She also used to say things like “there’s no time to be sad” and she would paint a picture where I was married with kids and I had all these responsibilities and didn’t have any time to obsessively contemplate my feelings because all these people needed me. At the time, I understood it as “don’t dwell on your mistakes on in your sadness” because you have to get on with life. However, how that translated to me was “ignore your feelings” if your body can still move, push it to its limits, your mind and emotions will catch up eventually. There are MANY more of these phrases, but these are the two I still sometimes hear in my head. In retrospect, I realize that these concepts were hurting me, so I told my mom and she actually apologized to me a few years ago for putting this pressure on me……sometimes we even joke about it because we now both recognize that “busy” is really NOT the way.
Aside from the thoughts and words I picked up as a kid, I also picked some as an adult. I learned that “being busy” was praised in this North American context, if you were scheduled back to back then you were significant, your time was valuable, and you were worthy. That narrative is not only problematic but quite TOXIC because it teaches people that if they are not running around like headless chickens then they are not valued. So, as a young person who is trying to “make it”, you need to be aware that you can buy into this narrative without recognizing the negative consequences of chronic stress.
So, I got to a place where I FULLY understood that stress and busy was bad BUT my life was already set up to run at 100km/hour so how do I slow down?? So I decided to dig deep and in retrospect, I realize now that God has been trying to teach me about rest for YEARS. I remember in 2018 when the “the word for the year” for transformation church was STRIDE; where pastor Mike spoke about the pace of grace and understanding that God goes with you all the way. I also remember listening to a Christian podcast called “Fight hustle and hurry” where they talked about what hurry does to your spirit and soul, BUT still, I didn’t how to “do rest”. So, I turned to the bible….and found 3 scriptures:
Matthew 11:28 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Hebrews 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
What those 3 scriptures, told me was that rest was valued but very hard to achieve and we had to work for it. I also learned that “go getters” like myself have a problem of surrender where we think we can sustain ourselves and we can do it all by ourselves. But even after reading this, I still couldn’t figure out how to actually rest. (Understanding something intellectually is very different from practically working it out.)
BUT then this week happened and I think I found a breakthrough….This week started off really badly because I had immense anxiety about the future. Working full time at a university and studying part-time as an MBA student means that September is pure HELL. So I was feeling anxious about the impending anxiety that comes with feeling overwhelmed….. it's like layered anxiety; I pray that anyone reading this never feels like this….So, with a pit my stomach and throat I called my mom and she immediately prayed with me and said peace will come. I then took to social media, hoping to find a word, a quote, or a picture of other people going through the struggle to see if I could relate BUT God had a different plan. I stumbled upon the Sunday talks from lighthouse.gfh, my brother’s Instagram ministry, and this week they were talking about God’s love. My sister -in- law Tutu and her friend Seun were talking about how God’s love has to do with identity. She talked about how we should lean into who we are in Christ rather than leaning into people’s opinions of who we should be. She talked about having an abundant life, and how God has called us to more…..but then she said this phrase that made everything click “a cup that is FULL, overflows”. I interpreted that as, whatever you fill yourself with will overflow; if you are full of busy and hurry, what overflows is a distracted life full of sickness and pain…. but if you are full of God’s love and peace then what overflows is love for him, for yourself, and others.
All week, I had gone to other things to fill me up, I went to my mom, social media, podcasts, sermons even the bible BUT I hadn’t gone directly to God….. Don’t get me wrong, you can learn ABOUT God through all those people but until you go to HIM, you might not get your complete healing….so I did. I had to remember that God lives within me, and all I have to do is quiet my thoughts and listen to the still voice within me.
Lo and behold, lying on my floor completely still, I heard him yesterday morning and it brought me to tears.
Let me leave you with this takeaway, I might not know how to “rest”, but I know God: “The prince of peace” and in this upcoming busy season, ALL I need to do is remember that truth.