Holy Tuesday 2020 - Women With Him: A Feminist Celebration of Easter

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Day of Rest

On the third day
Jesus slept in.

He once taught Mary many secrets
but Martha only needed one;

He said,
"Bread, wine and water,
and works
-even if they are good-
can never be enough alone.
Partake in this:

in the sacred pause,
the stillness between
an inhale and an exhale,
the radical act of rest."


It seems the world today often sends the message that unless we are working every moment of every day, we are somehow wasting our lives. The Rachel Hollises of the world would have us believe that because women can hustle, grind, and slay, this means we should - all the way up to the top of our chosen boss-babe, messy bun, caffeine-run empire. The seemingly good advice is this: work hard. If you're tired, work harder. On top of it all, don't forget to be a good, holy, Christian woman.

I've come to a different conclusion. God doesn't want me to give and work and give some more until I fall into my bed at night hungry with a face full of tears. That is a cultural belief, not doctrine. I believe a holy woman cares for herself first, because doing so is actually about connecting with the holiness within. Its from that place of pure love that the best kind of "yes" comes from.

I love following @thenapministry on Instagram. "We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations," they declare. With a focus on giving people - especially black, indigenous, and people of color - permission to rest, @thenapministry teaches what is at the heart of self-care. "Rest is a liberation practice," one post says. "Our divine bodies were not created to be machinery," says another. Continuing further, they say, "You obsession with productivity as a function of your worth is preventing you from tending to your soul. Naps are soul care." And finally, this sweet sermon on the importance of rest: "Rest is a healing portal. Rest is a spiritual practice. Rest is soul care and a deep connection to our ancestors. Its a space of retreat for a body searching for liberation. Rest is a meticulous love practice."

The story of the sisters Mary and Martha has become a sort of competition between the two women. Its a familiar story from the New Testament, and one that I reference in my poem. In the story, Mary is learning from the scriptures and Martha is busy in the kitchen. The questions,"Who was right? Who was holier? Who was better?" are the usual focus of the story. But what if we stood back a little?

In Luke 10, Jesus says to Martha, his friend, his host, someone he deeply loves and cares for: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful:and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." These words have been taken to mean that there was a good choice and a bad choice, or better and best choice, and that Mary and Martha are on opposite ends of a spectrum. But what if they were in fact on completely different grids? Every person is different and is ready for different teachings at any given time in their lives. What if Christ's words to Martha are not a chastisement but an invitation to wholeness for her alone? What if he never really said, "Martha, you should be studying the scriptures instead of making dinner," but instead, "Martha, I can see you're stressed. Dinner can wait. I love you and I"m here to spend time with you. Why don't you sit with us and rest a while, and in a little bit we can all make dinner together?" Which sounds more like the Christ you'd like to visit your home?

An invitation to rest was radical then and is radical still. A hustle-grind-slay system was designed to keep us tired. Too tired to realize what we are missing out on. Too tired to realize what freedoms have been lost or taken from us. If we do awaken to such a realization, the hope is that we are still too exhausted to find the words for our grief, let alone dare to speak or change our circumstances.

Friends, we can take the admonition to "be like Jesus" seriously. If we are truly following in his ways, it means that we actively love, serve, feed, teach, bless, heal, and protect like he did. But let us not forget that it also means to meditate, to sleep on boats, take 40 day vacations, spend time in quietude, in nature, in prayer and pondering, to walk dirt roads and play like children, and ultimately, follow his plea: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) His plea was not an invitation for tomorrow. It is a promise for today.
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