By Marie C. King
Preparing the body for renewal is an Advent practice. For deep renewal, the body requires rest and will show us signs when we are “running on empty.” Healthy habits of adequate rest, that restore well-being and reconnection with those we love and hold dear, is part of a prescription for self care for the body.
Rest provides renewal of energy of the body, mind, and spirit. What would feel like a rest to you? Being with friends and family with no agenda, no plans? A slow walk with a loved one? Sleeping late? We all have our own idea of what rest looks like. An article by the National Institutes of Health describes how important sleep and rest is for the whole body and emotional well-being.
The season of Advent calls us to set aside time each day to just be still and quiet and rest in the presence of God, to take time each day to “Be Still and Know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).
I have often heard the phrase, “There is no rest for the weary.” It seems to be an acceptable badge of honor for the weary to keep on like the Energizer Bunny. Yet, our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits require rest, rest from the requirements of the day-to-day activities that draw us into life’s demands.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 CEB). That brings me comfort knowing that God is with me and that God offers me rest. Rest from my agenda reminds me that it is about God’s agenda. There is a peacefulness and a calmness that sweeps over me when I stop, rest, and listen for the still small voice of God. The world is shouting to us “it is Christmas” while Advent is calling us to move into a time of stillness, waiting, silence and reflection, as we wait for the coming of the Christ Child. This is, a time for rest, reconnecting, and restoration. Not only is getting enough rest healthy, but also rest contributes to other habits which are important for renewing the body.
Our bodies may be restored through healthy habits such as adequate sleep, drinking plenty of fluids, regular healthcare check-ups, and exercise. Taking care of our physical selves reminds us to focus on restoring other broken places in our lives. We practice restoration while living in hopeful expectation that one day all things will at last be made right.
As much as I do not like to exercise, I find that the right kind of exercise restores how I feel physically and mentally. In Psalm 23, the psalmist reminds us that the Lord, “restoreth my soul.” When we find ourselves broken, with no energy to keep going, the restoration of our souls can also give us the energy to restore our bodies. How can we know when our bodies need to be restored? We may feel irritated at the slightest thing, frustrated, unable to escape from problems, lacking in sufficient rest or just not able to sleep, stress, and/or depressed without a known reason or cause, and lack of appetite.
When we notice these feelings, we can exercise. Exercise reduces stress, improves our quality of sleep, and improves our emotional and mental well-being. Dance like no one is watching you. Let your inner child come out to play. Dance and be silly. Laugh, laugh, and laugh. Research has shown that laughter reduces stress, relaxes your muscles, and provides more oxygen rich blood throughout your body. Laughter even helps to promote a healthy immune system. Use the lifeline from “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” … and “phone a friend” who makes you laugh!
Exercise not only cares for the body, it can also be a way to reconnect with family and friends. Exercise can even be a time for prayer and meditation with family and friends. A few years ago, while preparing for a half marathon with one of my friends, we decided to count our miles with different color stones that we had in our pockets. At the beginning of each mile we pulled a stone out of our pocket and would choose a topic to discuss. The clear blue stone we decided represented water. For a mile, we talked about our Baptism and what Baptism means to us. At the end of our training we were not only amazed at our progress, but we also knew more about one another’s faith journey.
When you need to rest, find ways that you can be good to yourself while resting in the presence of God, restoring your body and soul, and reconnecting with family and friends.
Marie C. King is a Registered Nurse, Faith Community Nurse, and Ordained Clergy with the United Methodist Church. She is a third year MDiv student in the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Central Tennessee.