_ Study _
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
_ Read _
A couple months ago, I was getting ready for bed, which for me includes doing nightly stretches. I finished my routine of foam rolling my legs, and stretching my hip flexors when I bent over to pick up a sock and a muscle spasm jolted through my lower back. “UGH!” I shrieked, as I froze in space, afraid to move even an inch at the risk of increasing the electrifying pain.
“What happened? Are you okay?” My husband questioned as he jumped out of bed. With a heavy exhale and a discouraged eye roll, I responded. “Another muscle spasm… can you help me stand up?”
Throughout the past six years and a variety of aches and chronic pain, I’ve learned I have what is called hypermobility – meaning I have extra mobility in my joints. One would think that this would be a good thing leading to greater flexibility. But it has proven to be quite the opposite as extra mobile joints are prone to instability and require a lot more work to stay in the proper place.
When muscle spasms like this happen, it takes time and often an extra trip to my chiropractor or physical therapist to encourage my muscles to release the tight grip they have around my joint. I hoped that perhaps this time would be different; that I’d wake up feeling like a million bucks. But that didn’t happen.
Here we go again. I thought. Time to text my volleyball team and tell them I can’t play this week.
I knew my body needed to rest, and that a week off from my volleyball league would be wise, but I had a terrible time telling my team. After much waffling, I sent the dreaded text and recognized why it had been so hard to send; I was desperate for affirmation from my team.
In a culture so heavily built around striving to do the best and be the best, it’s easy to fall victim to the lie that choosing to be proactive and take care of our bodies is a sign of weakness. I struggled to give myself permission to do what I knew was best for my body because I was afraid my team would think I was weak or lame for not playing through the pain.
I’ve been playing with this volleyball team for over 6 years. They genuinely care about me and want me to take care of my body. Of course they didn’t think I was lame for taking a week off, but I couldn’t see that truth without their help. I wanted to hear it from them.
What I’ve realized is, we can play an active role in encouraging each other to rest by giving permission.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
It is not always easy to encourage our friends to rest when it means that we might have to sacrifice something – perhaps it’s been a long time since you’ve seen each other and you’re craving deep connection or you’re simply missing time spent with your friend – but giving our friends the space, permission, and encouragement to pursue rest is a beautiful way that we can represent Jesus.
I have a friend who is the master of giving permission. If I have to cancel plans because I’m not feeling well, overdone, or just because I know I need to rest, she responds with an overwhelm of affirmation. Sometimes she even urges me to rest before I even ask for it! Even though she might be bummed that we can’t spend time together, she encourages me to take care of my body and asks how she can help.
Experiencing this great freedom that comes from receiving permission has inspired me to do whatever it takes to give permission. Learning to prioritize rest is difficult – but we can make it easier on each other by giving ourselves permission to say “no” and inviting friends to do the same.
My prayer is that together we might recognize the importance of giving permission. Even when it’s hard, let’s glorify Jesus by extending grace and helping each other pursue rest.
_ Practice _
Reach out to a friend who you know has a lot on his/her plate – ask if they have taken time to rest lately. Continue the conversation by asking how you can be an encouragement to them in pursuing rest.
The next time one of your friends tells you they need to cancel plans for one reason or another, respond with encouragement and affirmation. Remind them that rest is important and that their choice to take care of their bodies is wise. Saying no to plans or taking a step back is not easy; help them feel confident in their decision by giving them freedom through permission.
This devotional is part of the A Restful Advent series.
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