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Rest is Resistance


In the lush back garden, a gardener works. He is pulling up weeds, trimming back wayward branches, sprinkling fertiliser on the fuchsias to keep them red and plump. Sunlight filters through green leaves. My new friend, a member of our congregation, shows me a place where she likes to sit; an old fold-out chair sitting in the doorway of a kind of botanical annex to the house, filled with glistening plants and beloved ornaments. “My mother used to sit here too,” she said. “She called it her paradise. I like to sit here and read and listen to the birds.”

 

We go into the kitchen for a cuppa, and my new friend calls the gardener in too. She makes him a cup of coffee, just the way he likes it, and he takes a cake from the plate of goodies, cuts it into little slices and places it in front of her. They go on day trips together, these two. She goes to his family functions and his grandchildren hug her like she’s their grandma. It’s a friendship that has sprung up, by chance it seems, because my new friend needed some help in the garden. It’s as lovely and unexpected as a petunia sprouting up in the lawn.

 

I feel like I am witnessing, during this visit, a delightful, easy interplay between work and rest. I am reminded of an ancient story about God walking around the garden in the cool of the twilight hours, talking with the humans God has just created. It’s a story about the creativity that animates a gardener’s hands, about the mystery of sunlight and water that takes a person’s labour and turns it into a garden. And it’s a story about a God, and people, who stop to rest: to breathe in the damp, fragrant evening air, to delight in friendship and conversation.

 

On Sunday we are talking about Sabbath: the rest that was instituted by God to the Jewish people, after God rescued them from slavery. In preparation, I have been listening to Tricia Hersey who wrote Rest is Resistance, and who has created performance art in which she, as a Black American woman, napped over rows of cotton plants. Because her ancestors were not allowed to rest; their bodies were enslaved to a money-hungry, racist machine. She is resting now on their behalf. She is resting for her ancestors.

 

So I am thinking now about this ‘grind culture’ that Tricia refers to; a culture and economic system that enslaved her people, and continues to entrap people today. Who in our society is not allowed to rest? And how might we be entrapped by the values of this system, which rewards ceaseless, mindless work? What might liberation look like – not just for us, but for everyone?

 

But today, we rest: in the shade of a tree-filled backyard, in the warmth of unexpected friendship. Today, I am aware of how precious, how sacred, this rest is, the way it is robbed from us, and the work we need to do to get it back.

 

I wonder:

·      What does being rested feel like? What have you noticed happens when you rest?

·      What are the barriers to rest?

·      What work do we need to do together, in order that all might rest?


Words by Rev Andreana Reale

Image by imso gabriel on Unsplash

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