My Word in Action: To Rest or Work?

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image by kawamura

My word of the year is REST, and I’m trying hard to remember this at times. It doesn’t come naturally, and I find myself fighting my word more often than I find myself settling into it.

Rest, for me, is proving hard.

Take last week, for instance. I had flown into a random city for an event I was speaking at and was exhausted by the time I arrived at the hotel. Although it hadn’t been a long flight, I find that the act of travel (even when the flight itself is short) is hardly a rejuvenating one. I was tired. Bone tired.

And yet I had this event. A small, non mission-critical event I had agreed to attend weeks earlier that would hold a few dozen folks I wanted to meet. An event I knew very easily I could not attend, because there were enough folks that my lack of attendance wouldn’t matter. An event I didn’t know if I should go to. And so there I was, in my hotel room, weighing the pros and cons of going versus not going on the phone with my husband.

“What should I do?” I wailed.

“It’s just one event,” he responded, a bit bemused that I was putting such emphasis on such a small decision.

But it wasn’t a small decision. Or, it was, but it was emblematic of a larger decision.

Again and again I find myself faced with the same choice to push myself to go to XYZ or do XYZ on the chance that something professionally powerful will happen: I will meet someone I need to meet, I will learn something I need to learn, I will change my life in the way it needs to be changed. And there are key moments in my life where just this has happened: I met the person that truly changed things for me.

But, as with all things we do in life, much of the time nothing huge does happen. Many times, only little things happen. Sometimes those little things become big important life-changing things, and sometimes they don’t, but usually we can find some value. 

But then there’s the other side. The side that reminds us that we can’t do everything, and if we try to do everything we will fail at more things than not.

So what do we do? Do we show up? Or do we rest? 

I don’t know. So that night, I remembered my word. I rested. 

Was I right? I have no idea. You tell me.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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21 thoughts on “My Word in Action: To Rest or Work?

  1. I was in a similar state today, though my word of the year is not “rest,” but would be closer to “exchange.”

    Like you, I had promised to attend an event. Maybe it would have made a difference to have gone, but likely not. The issue, though, is that there was no exchange for my time, not an even exchange.

    I was plagued in the same way you were: debating in myself, justifying to others, discussing with those close to me.

    The truth, of course, is that I knew it was not worth my time. I would tend to give myself the same excuses: “What if I meet someone imperative?” “What if I see something inspiring?”

    I decided to go with my gut; I did not attend.

    Instead, I stayed at home, enjoyed a morning exchange with a close friend, went for a motorcycle ride with my father – which I have yet never done, and with whom I rarely take time to exchange.

    These exchanges provided me with inspiration and strength I needed, far more than pouring myself out to a promise the exchange of which I had not fully considered.

    Four times in the past week, this has happened, if not more. And, every time I follow through with the exchanges I see are proper, I am rewarded.

    Stick to your word, if it is what your heart demands. We’re not crazy for doing so, though we may well and ourselves so if we don’t.

    Thanks again for reassuring me.


  2. Hi, Claire: I would recommend a book I’ve just started reading called “Fresh Air” by Pastor Chris Hodges. The book explains that we need to prioritize and focus on what matters most. We get tired if we get involved in too many events and activities, especially those that don’t contribute to our life’s purpose. I like your word for the year “REST”. We need time to just “be” and we can only accomplish that through reducing our activities to a manageable level. I have found, too, it helps not to say “yes” too far in advance to leave room for how you’re feeling when the time comes – not always possible, but sometimes it is. Lori in Vancouver, BC

  3. Hi Claire, you are such a wonderful person. I enjoy the energy you put in your articles. We are stewards of our bodies. Take a moment when you are in between scales, and pray. The Spirit will lead you. God Bless

  4. If I understand the intention behind your Word of the Year, it provides guideposts, helps set priorities, define directions, answer questions, establish goals … for most intents and purposes, it’s your plan when you don’t have a plan. And as we all know, what’s the value of having a plan if one does not implement it? So, the next time you’re pondering an issue for which you’ve “apparently” no clear insight, remember that you have already selected the outcome and forge ahead.

  5. While I TOTALLY understand how you were feeling upon arrival, you spent financial resources and time away from your family to get there. I’m sure the other attendees did the same. One of them might have your presence warranted theirs. Had it been me, and I was attending because I was excited to meet/see you, I would have been disappointed.

    Not saying your decision was wrong, but it does reflect upon you as a person and a professional. The best takeaway for me is to find a way to cut back in the future to avoid that inevitable burnout.

    • Dear Claire,
      As the first person to comment on this post, I cannot let this opinion pass unremarked:
      “Not saying your decision was wrong, but it does reflect upon you as a person and a professional. The best takeaway for me is to find a way to cut back in the future to avoid that inevitable burnout.”

      I was, and am, supportive of your decision. The comment quoted implies that you must follow your commitments regardless. There is much confusion in Christian circles on this point. Yes, we must follow through on our commitments. To ignore them is a sin. It exasperates me how casually many Christians fail to follow through on their word. HOWEVER…. we are all human, and we all make mistakes, such as in over-committing. We also get ill sometimes, or exhausted. Is this commenter seriously suggesting we should get out of a hosp[ital bed and stagger off regardless? That is implied. The crucial issue lies in how we handle it. Two options. 1. Follow through fully on our commitments. 2. Humble ourselves, and tell the appropriate person “I am sorry, but I will not be able to fulfill my commitment to you because I am ill, or double-booked, or exhausted”, or whatever it happens to be. Integrity lies in treating all situations the same way. Commitments to an obscure “nobody”, or to a famous “somebody”. Commitments to a meeting of 3, or of 3000.

      If we are secure in who we are “in Christ”, then we are not driven to find our worth and value in our career, or our contacts and friendships. It is a very instructive exercise to do a study on the expressions “in Christ”, “in Him”, “in whom” etc in a conventional translation of the NT. A real ‘perspective corrector’!

      Time to put away my soap box, and stagger off to bed,

  6. Hello Claire.

    I think you made the right decision, and bi that, you were true with yourself.

    I know exactly what you are feeling when you mention that, despite the fact that your flight was a short one, you were tired down to your bones. I recently took a job with a high travel demand, I’ve been traveling almost every week for the last six months. This kind of life can be brutal.
    Because if this I am working to startup a blog for frequent travelers and road warriors, in hope to help a little to people like me on how to find equilibrium in life traveling this much. When the blog is up and running I will let you know.

    I certainly hope that you find that equilibrium in your life, and I believe that this brave decision you made is a firm step towards that goal.

    God bless you,


  7. Claire — for anyone who works at the pace you do, I think you made an incredibly brave decision to stand by your word (literally). It’s easy to imagine what might have been had you attended — but my bet is that the rest you garnered will give you the energy needed to influence or be influenced by someone or some thing that would not have occurred had you worn yourself out. I give you serious credit for deciding on your priorities for yourself and then sticking with them when the time came that you needed to. Cheers!

  8. Hi Claire, you can’t always be everywhere and organizing your time is chief to being healthy. Last year I turned 50 and made some very big changes in my life, taking control of my time was one of them. The hardest part was learning how to say no to my schedule.

  9. Hi Claire,
    you did the right thing. It’s very easy to let our commitments to ourselves be the first things to fall by the wayside and by even missing this small event to be kind to yourself, you’ve made a big step. That all-powerful person who will wave their magic career dust over you? They’ll be at another one when you’re rested and raring to go and then you’ll be able to fly!
    Take care

  10. Hi Claire! I adore your word of REST. It was mine- really my husbands for 2011 when he suffered from clinical burn out. We learned ALOT that season and continue to learn to how make the best choice in the midst of a bunch of good choices. Have you ever heard of Dr. Archibald Hart “Adrenaline and Stress: The Exciting New Breakthrough That Helps You Overcome Stress Damage” or Wayne Cordeiro’s “Leading on Empty” Both fascinating books and very insightful medically and practically.
    Well, in regards to your question, it is hard to know how to answer because on one side, I believe you should honor your commitments because it speaks to the kind of person character you have. On the other side as others have commented in what condition would you arrive. I’m sorry I think there is more details needed. I can say that I have learned that sometimes a good decision is not the best decision and the best decision will often come with a price. P.S. I am a new subscriber and enjoy your post.

  11. Since you clearly can’t be all the places that some potentially awesome thing could happen at one time, you have to trust that you will be guided to those that are needful for you in any given moment. Rest is so much more than physical–it’s resting your spirit in the knowledge that everything you need will come to you in its time. Total rejuvenation requires body, mind AND spirit to rest.

  12. By all means rest! Living up to your own promise to yourself is more important than a singular event. You could “what if” til the cows come home but you sure aren’t going to get any rest that way. Perspective is key. Ah, if we could only harness that ability at the right time. Crystal ball perhaps?

  13. Hi Claire
    It is clear that you made the right decision. The indecision shows this, confirmed by asking someone else what to do. If you had gone in that condition and state of mind, you may well have met someone ‘you needed to know’. However, in that state, you would have made such a poor impression on each other that you would have wished it had never happened.
    Good call