I had an epiphany this morning. We’ve been talking about running on empty in church, and since this also seems to be the theme of my life, I’ve been paying attention. Yesterday was an extra-long day to top off an extra-long week. As I got the kids ready for pre-school, I could tell they were running on empty. They needed rest. They wanted nothing more than to skip school, wear pajamas all day, and play with me.
And then it struck me. Finding rest as a young family is so challenging because the way each member “rests” is often contradictory. Would I find it restful for the kids to skip preschool and play with me all day? Of course not! If I was an astronaut dying in outer space and I could choose between oxygen and pre-school, I would take the pre-school.
Fast-forward to Saturday morning. What would the kids find restful? A family day at the park. Dumping the entire contents of the playroom on the floor and cleaning it up…never. Playing Octonauts with Dad and Mom for five hours straight. You know what Dad and Mom would find restful? Having one of those talks where you get to finish your entire thought without interruption—what is that called? Oh yes, a conversation. We would like one of those, please. And perhaps a chance to lie in bed and read one of those rectangular objects… Remember when we used to read those things instead of drool on them? We would love to sleep in, or drink a cup of coffee before it gets cold, or do absolutely nothing. Just for an hour.
As if those forms of rest aren’t contradictory enough, we have to throw the baby into the mix. You know what my little sweetheart finds restful? Routine. She loves taking her nap in her bed. She wakes up happy and rested when bedtime is consistent. But guess what? One family trip to the park or date night, and it’s sayonara routine.
I can think of virtually zero activities in which every member of our family would enjoy his or her ideal version of rest at the same time. And that’s a little disappointing. I’ve always had this picture of the perfect Saturday: pancakes, pajamas, laughter. In the picture, we’re all being refreshed together as a family. It’s very Leave It to Beaver.
But maybe it’s time to re-think rest as a young family.
In this season of life, maybe “rest” requires sacrifice. Maybe it means that in order for one person to be refreshed, somebody else has to become a little bit depleted. The baby has to give up her routine so her big sisters can enjoy a family date. The big sisters have to go to pre-school so Mom gets a reprieve. Mom skips sleeping in on Saturday, so Dad can take a break. Dad spends his day-off playing Octonauts for five hours. Maybe rest requires give-and-take. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Maybe it’s simply one more way God sanctifies our families. We may not be united in how we find rest, but as we serve one another, we grow united in love. And we discover that joy doesn’t come solely through rest. It also comes through sacrifice. So the next time you find yourself reading Stuart Little at 6am on Saturday morning, thank God that you’re able to give that hardworking man a chance to sleep in. Thank God that He is using you to refresh your precious children. And remember, Monday morning is coming with coffee…and pre-school.