Restlessness. Abiding restlessness. My heart has been so very restless here recently.
What is it about this time in life that leaves people restless? Everyone in this transitional age group between teenagerdom and grown adult life seems so restless. This restlessness manifests itself in various forms. Some party as if there were no tomorrow, some work for the future like there is no today, and some travel the world while they do not dare to traverse the valleys and mountains of their own hearts.
We are all so restless. We are all searching. But searching for what? What is it that our restless hearts seek? We search for something greater than ourselves, yet at the same time we almost fear what would happen should we discover that ‘something.’ So we keep searching, and too many spend their lives searching while the answer is right in front of them. Instead, they fill their lives with the many distractions this world has to offer. We all fill our lives with distraction.
Martha is the classic example of this kind of restlessness and bustling about that often characterizes my own life.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she has a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, RSV)
Martha is hostess. She is concerned with busily serving the Lord and his disciples. Hosting people by yourself can be very overwhelming. But Martha is an example of more than a general busy bee – she too has the restless heart beneath her restless work. Mary, on the other hand, rests at the feet of the Lord and contemplates his words. She has chosen the better part: resting in the Lord instead of troubling herself with distractions and business.
One of St. Augustine’s most famous quotes from the beginning of his Confessions is, “The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.” This is the translation by R. S. Pine-Coffin from Penguin Classics, but people usually express this thought of Augustine’s by the phrase,”Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Restlessness vs. Resting.
But how do we find the time or the opportunity to rest in a world that is so full of important activities and enticing distractions?
Between academics, clubs, friends, and miscellaneous activity, I have had no time to truly rest the last few weeks. Nor will I have the opportunity to rest much in the next few weeks between helping with a retreat, organizing an event, and three major papers to write. I have much to drive me to distraction from the things of the Lord. However, this past weekend I was provided with the blessed opportunity to rest. I went on retreat with my university’s Campus Ministry. For the first time in a very, very long time I was simply a retreatant – taking on no responsibility for the retreat. I put all my academic and otherwise activity on hold for one weekend. What a breath of fresh air! The weekend began with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The song “Restless” by Audrey Assad sung before the exposed Eucharist reminded me of my sole reason for coming on the retreat – to rest in God.
I put all my worries and activities on hold for one weekend to breathe in deep the presence of the Lord. How greatly needed was this deep breath before plunging back into the stormy sea of the remainder of the semester! I spent every moment of the retreat reveling in God’s presence in nature, in His other children, and first and foremost, in the Eucharist. We won’t always have the time to spend an entire weekend resting in God.
Here are some small, practical day-to-day ways to rest in God:
-start your day with morning prayer
-pray the rosary, taking the time to really meditate on the mysteries
-meditate on your favorite Psalm or parable
-take a walk and embrace your surroundings
-talk to a close friend who truly shines Christ’s light in their life
-Most importantly: go to Mass – Jesus wants to meet you there.
St. Augustine begins and ends his Confessions with reflection on man’s restless heart and his need to rest in God. In Book XIII of the Confessions, he ends with a spiritual interpretation of the Sabbath. God rests on the seventh day to provide the example for us. Yes, like Martha, we will need to work and give attention to the activities of this world, but Mary chose the better part: rest. We need both: to work and to rest. Do not get so caught up in the activities of this life that you neglect your restless heart. Rest. Rest in the One for whom your soul longs.
This is Holy Week. This week, truly take the time to rest and reflect on the mysteries of our Lord. Rest and reflect on the Last Supper, Passion, Death, and Burial of our Lord so that you may prepare your heart for the joy of Easter morning.
May God bless you on your way!