Our prioritized portion

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May is a month of celebrations and gatherings by way of Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, graduations of all levels and grades, proms, school dances, festivals and the list goes on. Even though summer doesn’t officially begin until June, as a whole, we get excited about the warm(er) weather, the end of the school year, the beginning of vacation season and the opportunity to be in environments that bring us joy.

May is also mental health awareness month. Admittedly, I’ve only come into this fact about May within the last few years. Yet, it’s been mental health awareness month for the last seventy-five years. It brought to mind this question — prior to COVID-19, who else paid attention to this fact about May? I bring COVID-19 into the conversation because mental health became a major conversation partner during and especially now after this devastating disruption to our world.

While we revel in the celebrations, vacations and gatherings and the excitement and joy May brings, we must also consider our mental health, which the World Health Organization says is the state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life. As we consider our ability to cope with the stresses of life, we have to invite another conversation partner to the table — rest.

Oxford Dictionary defines the verb rest as to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself or recover strength; allow to be inactive in order to regain strength, health or energy.

How often do we rest? How often do we allow our minds a moment to relax and recover … a moment to regain energy … a moment to cease from thinking about the next task to accomplish or the next gathering to attend?

As a culture, we’ve been fully engaged in hustle, grind and go mode, wearing it as a badge of honor and a symbol of success, but we aren’t always able to enjoy our reward because we’re physically and mentally exhausted. Success and reward should never be stresses in life, but if we don’t allow ourselves the space and grace to rest, they can be.

There are two biblical narratives that speak to mental health and rest … or the lack thereof. The first is Mark 4:35-40. This text most known for Jesus words to the storm “Peace be still.”

But before we go there, let’s go here and look at verse 38 that says: “But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.” Jesus, our Lord and Risen Savior, fully human and fully divine was taking a nap! He was aware of the need His body and mind had for rest and took action. Jesus was so fully engaged in recovery and relaxation that the storm that stressed the disciples didn’t even bother Him. He took the time on the boat during the storm to be inactive to regain strength, health and energy. Notice I said Jesus took the time. He didn’t ask for permission. He did what He needed to do, for His body and mind and rested.

The other biblical narrative is Proverbs 31:10-31. We speak so highly and so well of the Proverbs 31 woman. We, as women are told to strive to be like her, as a trusted wife, an advocate for the poor, a thriving creative, an astute businesswoman and one who is called blessed by her children. And yet, there is nowhere in all twenty-one verses that says she took a moment to rest.

All things considered … all the amazing things considered about this model woman, what was the state of her mental health before, during and after all she put her hand and heart to? When did she rest? How was she able to enjoy the success of her “hustle, grind and go,” if at all?

While Jesus was unbothered by a storm and took time for His mental health and physical rest, the Proverbs 31 woman would likely keep going in the midst of a storm, and I don’t say that, in this instance, as something to be proud of.

I’m not saying the Proverbs 31 woman is wrong in what she did.

I am saying that rest is just as (if not more) important as her husband’s trust and her children’s praise. I am saying that if Jesus can take His mental health and physical rest into consideration, so too can we.

As we close out the month, the celebrations, gatherings, excitement and joy will continue, mental health awareness month will end, yet my hope and prayer is that rest will always be our prioritized portion.