Rest from Labor


A Girl Reading in a Hammock, Robert-Archibald Graafland. Dutch (1875 – 1940)

Thoughts for the Weekly newsletter of All Souls Church, September 2, 2012.

On Labor Day weekend, I often think about “Sabbath,” the idea of taking a holy rest, breathing a few deep breaths before autumn, and basically “unplugging” for a little while to notice the difference in temperature, change in light, and movement of the seasons in the world and in my life.  But this year, in addition to trying to rest from work, I’m also thinking about the various things I “labor on” about.  I’m wondering if I might be able to rest from the things I too often belabor.         

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in several meetings, presentations, and group settings in which one of the leaders or presenters became visibly angry at others who were also in leadership roles.  One person felt slighted and like she was being put on the defensive. In another setting, it was clear the speaker brought different expectations to the event, yet belabored his own agenda.  Because of my own distance from these situations (I was not responsible or in a leadership role) I was able to reflect and notice how the various people perturbed were simply showing things most of us feel inside  and try our best to hide.
As I think about all the various things I’m tempted to belabor (the slow person in traffic, the unprepared person in front of me at the cash register, the person who I think slights or ignores me, etc.), I am grateful for prayer.  Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  I believe him.  If I could not hand over the many things that I tend to belabor, I would be weighed down so much I couldn’t move.  Jesus asks specifically for the heavy burdens, but in my experience it’s often the small things that weigh me down, accumulate, and prevent me from moving freely.  He takes them all.

“Rest from labor,” for me, often means sending up small, short prayers: “God take this anger away.  Smooth over this resentment.  Keep me from belaboring the past.  Free me.”  Christ gives me rest as he takes the weight off and puts it all in God’s hands, hands that made the world and can handle all the world’s weightiness.  I hope we all can find some rest this Labor Day weekend. 

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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