Rest is a privilege. It is the privilege of thinking about what one wants to think about whenever and for whatever length of time. Rest is the gift of doing or not doing because one has carved out of space to let idleness rule the day.
The past year and half have put rest front and center in my mental matter. Covid’s coercion to come, sit, and rest awhile lingers to date. Perhaps this pause is another way of thinking of Covid’s long-haul effects.
I have pondered rest more recently in light of heralded actions from three Black women athletes. Renowned tennis player Naomi Osaka’s opted out of the French Open and Wimbledon. Although suspended due to testing positive for marijuana use, track icon, Sha’Carri Richardson, resolved to focus on running life’s race. GOAT gymnast and soaring phenom Simone Biles created her own buzz when she withdrew from U.S. team and individual-all around Olympic competition. Biles noted that she decided to forego the team competition because she
“didn’t want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt…You have to be there 100%, or 120%, or you’re going to hurt yourself.”
Richardson, Osaka, and Biles shared that their mental health was a factor in moving forward.
An athlete may be physically intact, but said mental prowess may, well “have a mind of its own.” By appearance any of us may seem as tall and strong as an oak. Yet, our mental status is that of dustballs blowing in the weakest wind. The resolution to perform, the pivot to facade, and the inclination to impress, drag us mentally kicking and screaming from one meeting, one event, one book, one class, one athletic competition to the next. Because society tends to equate the lack of mental health and wellness with weakness, we silently suffer through what our bodies and spirits warn need releasing and relinquishing.
A tennis player said enough. A gymnast tapped out. A track star stepped back. Three Gen-Zers issued a clarion call not only to their generation, but dropped wisdom for the ages. Their athletic abeyance is worth noting. Life’s lessons come in novel packaging. What’s the pedagogical point:
Choose yourself, sometimes.
The word “sometimes” is unsettling. We should choose ourselves, our lives, our health, our families, and our whatever all the time. Or should we? There are people throughout the U.S. refusing any Covid vaccination. Delta variant be damned. Are they choosing to relish in their own individual existential reality? As Congress begins to investigate America’s attack on America on January 6th, 2021, did the perpetrators and insurrectionists choose self or how they see themselves in the national landscape?
Sometimes means that there are moments when we — or allow me to self-disclose I — do not prioritize my health and wellbeing. As a mother there have been innumerable occasions when I have coaxed just one more maternal move from this body. Meanwhile the words “slow down” and “stop” sit on the sidelines frenetically waving the surrender flag. This is my “sometimes.”
A “sometimes positioning” infers that even as we consider ourselves, we contemplate the cost to our siblings. Sometimes we do because it will benefit the greater good. Sometimes we abstain because my mind, body, and soul need realignment. Sometimes our mental health demands recalibration with our physical, spiritual, and emotion state.
In the salutation of 3 John, the author records, "Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2) New Testament scholars aver the writer is addressing the epistle to a leader of a congregation. This public-facing individual is facing a challenge within the community and perhaps a threat to the person’s leadership.
Before getting to the specifics, the Johannine author, in true epistle form, begins with offering spiritual wellness to this leader. Yet, the writer alters the epistolary style and couples the greeting with wishes of physical health. There is no mention of mental being. However, it is evident the situation is quite onerous and impacting more than the soul.
Sometimes situations can be so taxing that no part of our being is left unscathed. We try to put on a pretty face, but no amount of Mented, MAC or Maybelline can gloss over the mental duress. National and institutional pressures can be burdensome at our personal calculus. Black women know this heaviness all too well. Thank you Sha’Carri, Naomi, and Simone for the reminder.
One of my favorite preachers, the late Rev. Shirley Prince of Memphis, TN, used to say, “Lord, speed me up or slow the world down.” It is perfectly self-saving, not self-centered, to resist the world’s rat race. It is in order to recline, repose, and rest.
Rest is physical. Rest is spiritual. Rest is mental. Rest is political.
Choose yourself, and like a soothing zephyr during a sunset — rest.
Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder, author, speaker and teacher, is a Baptist and Disciples of Christ minister who holds a Ph.D. in New Testament from Vanderbilt University. Her latest book is When Momma Speaks: The Bible and Motherhood from a Womanist Perspective. This #WomanistMomma currently serves as Associate Professor and Academic Dean at Chicago Theological Seminary.
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