We nestled at the corner bar, throwing off our heavy backpacks and setting the mugs of steaming black coffee on the wooden top. The window in front of us revealed a busy alley, and an even busier Nashville district. People walked the sidewalks in front of the restaurants, and headlights drove by us. My eyes followed a couple walking past the window, and the car bearing a small pink mustache on its dashboard waiting to pick them up. I watched them get in and drive away before I lowered my head toward the screen again. And for the next two hours, I typed hundreds of words and only looked up to sip more coffee.
The world outside laughed and wandered, completely oblivious that I sat just feet away feeling pitiful for doing homework on a Friday night.
I chuckled to him at one point, “So this is our night on the town, huh?”
:: :: ::
One Week Later
The wind blew through the blue, nylon hammock as we tied the rope around the branches and looped it through the carabiners. We fought against it, and we laughed as we wondered if it could be a parachute. Once we secured it, I wasted no time in throwing my comforter in and creating a fortress against the moving winds. I climbed inside, and finally, I felt the wind move and sway me in the hammock. It should have been chilly, but I felt safe and bundled with blankets pulled to my eyeballs.
After the initial moment of relief, it dawned on me: I had nothing to do. No agenda. No plan. No worry. No guilt. I came to this place with the sole desire to rest, and trusting I would know how to do that.
It looks like I’ll be in a hammock in a couple hours, so now what?
I pulled the Mac out of the backpack beside me, and began importing new CDs. While the disk was working, I’d read a chapter in my Bible. Then, I’d take the CD out. Put a new one in. Turn the page in my Bible. Repeat.
And for the next two hours, I rested in that.
Honestly, it took me the whole two hours to figure out that when I had come to this place, I was dry to my very bones. Having been so consumed with hustling to finish a semester of school and ministry, I had walked to a dry and weary land where there had not been much stillness and quiet.
But at some point, while I swayed in a hammock under a blue sky and read truths and promise of grace, my eyes grew heavy and my heart felt saturated, sopping, weighty. My eyes followed the clouds moving above the swaying leaves and branches, and as I tried to memorize the sounds of the busy West End behind me, and as I felt the wind brushing the hair on my face, I knew: Rest is spending this day in a hammock with nothing to do but to breathe, and grace is getting to do it on a day like this.
:: :: ::
I probably shouldn’t lie when you ask me how I’m doing. I probably shouldn’t leave the conversation open and closed at a simple “good.” I should probably tell you instead that I’m walking a fine line between being productive and being burnt out.
Don’t hear me wrong when I admit that to you: I love what I get to do. I get to wake up every day, and live in days packed full of practicing the Truth I claim so dear — meeting people, learning things, going to new places, all of it. I get to do all of it, and it covers me in a purpose that I never could have crafted out of my own hands.
But, do hear me when I say that when I don’t take care of myself in those things, I get tired. Worn out. Forgetful of the core motivation. At this point, I’ve stopped feeling overwhelmed at the coming days because regardless of how I feel, it needs to get done. I can either complain and get it done, or be joyful and get it done. Honestly, I’d rather the choose the former but Truth tells me to choose the latter.
However, beyond the days and plans and calendars, this is the truth that resonates within me: my Father cares for me better than I know how to myself.
That means that when I began telling others that I’m burnt out on the undergrad lifestyle, doors opened and I found out I was just hours away from finishing my degree.
This means that when I worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to fully plan and follow through with hosting a party for a middle school ministry, my teammates showed up and carried the load with me.
This means that when I was tempted to feel guilty for spending a Friday night in a coffee shop, I was reminded: this is the last one. One more.
And when I didn’t have a single thing to do on a sunny afternoon, I was given the time to rest in a hammock under a sky painted like acrylic on a stretched canvas.
These moments weren’t even a part of my plan, but they brought relief I didn’t even realize I needed. As each moment unfolded, my dry, tired bones emerged into a place of new hope and restored purpose again. And I didn’t know I needed to be brought to that place again, but I got there and I knew: I have wandered, and I don’t want to walk through that desert again.
There was a point in the hammock when I had to shove every physical distraction out of my way in order to clear my inner distractions. And that was the moment I watched the clouds roll by, heard the traffic on the street behind me, saw the growing leaves in the branches above me, and knew: rest is spending an afternoon in a hammock with nothing to do. Grace is doing it on a day that looks like this.
It’s one thing to know that our bodies were designed to stop at certain points. It’s another thing to realize that we are given the freedom to know how to do that and when. It could mean doing things like looking up, noticing the small things, laughing a little louder, reading a little longer than you planned. I think it means living in a way that lets the bones of my body rejoice at the day behind and ahead. I think this idea of moving and resting in beautiful days is completely woven by Grace that cares for us infinitely more than we could ever alone —
oh, let me live moving and resting in days that look like that.