We buckled ourselves into the SUV, four adults and two nieces smooshed between all the camping gear. By buckled I mean to include Grandma’s arms which clasped around the two littles in their pink swimsuits. Not exactly legal, but the Honda Pilot inched past the pine trees about as slow as the snails whose vacated shells we planned to hunt at the beach. Mom asked if our souls felt at rest being here in the Adirondacks and wedged away from our busy lives, but silence greeted her question.
I’d spent the week sleeping late and paddling across lakes powdered with sunshine. My body had slowed down, but when I checked my soul I found it ticking away just as fast as ever. My brother and sister-in-law felt the same.
It probably didn’t help that every time we got cell reception, driving through Lake Placid on the way to a hike or just outside the bathhouse at the beach, I’d look for text messages, Jen would check her email, and Jason would post pictures on Instagram. Only mom, still living in her paleontologic world devoid of Facebook with it’s real, in-person friends and live-time conversations—where being social doesn’t require media—seemed to have soul rest
Looking for soul rest
The idea of soul rest haunted me and, when I got home, I googled it. Apparently Merriam-Webster, Google, and Apple don’t seem to think it’s a real thing. But being the astute graduate student that I am, I broke it down into its smallest parts and ended up with soul and rest: soul being the immaterial part of who we are and rest meaning to cease from activity into order to find refreshment and recover strength (adapted from Google definitions).
Soul rest, then, means more than saying sayonara to the boss and heading for the mountains, more than letting a movie steal my thoughts away from school stress for two hours. Soul rest means slowing down on the inside.
If you’re like me though, you maintain such a frenetic pace between jobs, family responsibilities, meeting up with friends, online dating, checking Instagram, and watching clips on YouTube that checking your level of soul rest—which you’ve hardly even thought about in the last year—might seem as impossible as trying to gauge your serum potassium level at this very moment.
Facing the Clutter
Measuring our soul rest might be easier if we start somewhere else, at the opposite end of the spectrum which I call soul clutter. It can be diagnosed with a question that Jen asked me after our vacation. “Do you ever feel like you’re going all the time, even when you have nothing to do, like you can’t stop on the inside?”
Yep, a lot of the time. I can rest my body with the help of social media, I Love Lucy reruns, and the book by Annie Dillard that I’m reading before bed, but it seems I’ve forgotten how to slow my spirit down. Even morning devotions can feel like another bum rush through chapters, prayer requests, and memorizing. Wait, memorizing? Who even has time for that anymore?
So how do we find rest for our souls? Do we have to cancel Netflix and read the Bible for hours on end? Not necessarily, but we do need hack back some of the overgrowth and clear a space for enjoying God’s company without having to accomplish anything.
Uncluttering our Souls
Here are three ways that I’ve found to push back the clutter and tap into soul rest:
1. Go to bed without social media and get a little ruthless about it.
Climb into bed and, instead of scrolling through Facebook, run through your day with God, thanking him for the bright spots and when he helped you, and tell him you love him. Then when the alarm buzzes in the morning and you dread peeling yourself off the sheets, instead of opening the news app tell Jesus good morning and ask for his help to face the day. If it’s too tempting having your phone by the bed, you can always cut the umbilical cord. Target still sells old-fashioned alarm clocks.
2. Turn off the audio book (or radio or iTunes) and drive one leg of your commute in silence.
Spend that time with God, telling him about your upcoming day, floating your brain over friends and family who need his help, or just being silent with him the way you can be with your best friend.
3. After dinner go for a ten minute walk, leaving the earbuds at home, and feel the air on your skin, hear the crickets stretching.
Let your mind float over the faces, leaves, and window shutters you pass. Even if it’s only one loop around the block, let your mind untwist and slow down.
Changing our Default Settings
Soul clutter might be our default setting in a world where entertainment, shopping, and pictures of our third-grade friend’s honeymoon are only a swipe away. But I’d spent the week sleeping late and paddling across lakes powdered with sunshine. My body had slowed down, but when I checked my soul I found it ticking away just as fast as ever. While the perks of this technological access are great (as of yesterday Amazon Prime Now will let me buy my groceries from Sprouts online and deliver them in two hours with only a tip for the driver), it shapes us into people who fear boredom and who’ve forgotten how to be alone with our thoughts, let alone with God.
But like my nieces who need a little redirection now and again, we can train ourselves away from the frenetic mental pace and unclutter our souls. As cell coverage reaches it’s tentacles towards us, even in the middle of the wilderness, we might need more than snail hunting on a toasty beach to achieve soul rest. We might need to give our phones a vacation, too.
Originally posted at shannongianotti.com