Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
The winter rains have begun, and the grapevines have dropped their leaves. Only a few yellow, orange, and red stragglers remain, catching the watery afternoon sun, like tiny stained-glass windows. All the work for the season is done. The fruit that was gathered, sorted, and pressed, is now resting quietly in barrels, slowly becoming delicious wine that will someday grace our tables.
The energy that flowed between the leaves, branches, and vines throughout the growing season has slowly made its way to the trunk for an extended period of rest. Now the vine is ready for a season of dormancy. The branches that held the fruit will become unsustainable during the dormant season, and will soon be cut off leaving the gnarled trunk standing like a dead stick. Happening upon a vineyard during this season, it’s hard to imagine there is any life left in the vines. In fact, you might wonder why all the sticks are in rows! But, here’s the secret of the vine: Dormancy produces fruit. Without this season, without the rest, without the stored energy, the vine would not have the vitality to push out the new leaves and fruit in the spring. Without dormancy, there is no harvest.
Perhaps the metaphor for our lives is obvious… rest is critical to fruitfulness.
Here’s the secret of the vine: Dormancy produces fruit. Without this season, without the rest, without the stored energy, the vine would not have the vitality to push out the new leaves and fruit in the spring. Without dormancy, there is no harvest.
As leaders, it often seems rest is not an option. There is always more that could be done, someone to follow-up with, a never-ending pull to be everything to everyone. We are never far from our devices which relentlessly inform us of more work and more opportunities, and which even notice that we don’t quite measure up, causing us to work even harder. We work every day of the week. We even cut out sleep to make room for those extra projects, causing us to become irritable, gain weight, and get sick more often. Sounds great, huh?
To be honest, it’s hard to find time to rest, but perhaps it’s even harder to value rest and give ourselves permission to rest. One of the highest cultural values in America is being productive, and being busy seems to be the marker for productivity. If we are not busy, others may think of us as unproductive, or we may consider ourselves somehow inferior. Even if we could take a whole day off, we choose, rather, to stay engaged with work and so avoid the pain of feeling unproductive.
But, what if scientists are correct? What if we need enough sleep and rest to be healthy and productive? And what if God is calling us to rest in order to be more fruitful? The rest that is built into the rhythms of nature serves as a reminder that our lives depend on rest. Throughout Scripture, God invites us to rest. Right from the beginning, God models a complete, joy-filled rest after working hard to create all that we know. Later, God commands a full day’s rest every week! Can you imagine 52 days of rest every year? In the Psalms, we hear God whisper that he will provide for us, even while we sleep! Jesus continues to model rest as he withdraws from the crazy busyness of teaching and healing, trusting that all will be accomplished that needs accomplishing.
The rest that is built into the rhythms of nature serves as a reminder that our lives depend on rest. Throughout Scripture, God invites us to rest. Right from the beginning, God models a complete, joy-filled rest after working hard.
As it turns out, rest and trust are interrelated…
Rest proves trust
Trust provides rest.
When we trust God to care for the things that concern us, we can rest. When we rest, we prove that we trust God. Like the vine, we can trust that reserving our energy for a season will provide enough resources to work hard and provide a bountiful harvest in a future season. Unlike the vine, which makes no choice regarding rest, we can choose to rest or not to rest.
Jesus calls all who are weary and burdened to come to him and he will give us rest. Simple as that… but we must choose it. Can we trust God enough to choose rest for a season? For a day? What does that look like? Let’s journey together into the rest of God.
Susie Lipps is Fuller’s Bay Area director for Strategic Engagement. She is an entrepreneur, most recently launching Conversations in the Vineyard, which marries two of her passions: leadership and vineyards. Susie loves good coffee, good wine, and the great conversations that inevitably accompany them.