Summer of 2018, at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry called on the Church to practice the Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life. The Way of Love is not a program or curriculum, but rather an intentional commitment to a set of practices often referred to in monastic communities as the “Rule of Life.” By accepting this invitation from the Presiding Bishop, we make an intentional commitment to follow Jesus through seven practices— Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest— in order to “grow more deeply with Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so we can bear witness to his way of love in and for the world.”
On Saturday, April 13, 2019 members of the EDNY Young Adult Network spent a day learning about the practices of the Way of Love. The following is a reflection written by one of the participants.
Rest as a Way of Following Jesus:
Reflections on the Annual Young Adult Network Quiet Day
By Christine Pollnow
I am at a point in my life where I feel like everything is out of my control. I am at a point in my life where I am no longer quite sure where I fit in, or what the next step is. And I am at a point in my life where I feel rather alone, and instead of reaching out to those around me, I have holed up somewhat at home.
I have been told recently that I need to take the time my body needs, and I should give myself a break. There is a difference between going into my bedroom and not facing the world (while internally beating myself up for not pursuing the career and opportunities I want), and giving myself space and time to heal. When I was pursuing post-secondary education, church and the college ministry group I was a part both served as a much-needed respite from the many different things that called for my attention. Since graduation, however, my visits to any place of worship have been few and far in between.
The idea of setting an alarm and getting up in the morning on a Saturday to head to an event was not one I leaped at hungrily. I was completely worn out. I needed something else in my life. As it turned out, rest was what I needed.
When I walked through the doors of St. George’s Episcopal Church, I did not know anything about the Way of Love. I didn’t know any of the people there. If I hadn’t already committed to the endeavor (mainly because of the forty-five-minute train commute to get there) I might have turned around and left. Right from the beginning, this was a welcoming group, who chatted a bit awkwardly but very sincerely over coffee and fruit. We made our way to the sanctuary, got a brief introduction to the Way of Love, and then in smaller groups, we discussed this intentional commitment to follow Jesus.
During the course of the day we talked about the different entry points into the Way of Love: Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest, and Turn. We were provided colorful markers, sheets of paper, fun toys, and games as we experimented and explored each of these seven entry points.
My group talked so much about how these entry points all intersected with our lives and discussed what spurred us to go forward, that we lost track of time and did not even complete all of the assigned activities. In the course of these discussions, I realized that this is what has been missing from my life: the chance to talk to other people about deeper subjects that matter to me.
What perhaps were my favorite parts of the discussion were that first, everyone had a different practice of the Way of Love that spoke personally and directly to him or her, and second, everyone listened to each other intently. In fact, I learned a lot about where I might need to put more attention in my life by hearing other people talk about their own lives.
For me, as a busy New Yorker with some recently added extra stressors in my life, “Rest” was and is the practice that I most need to focus on. Rest has never been my strong suit. And lately, when I need to rest the most, it seems to be the hardest thing to do. I like to be active. I like to accomplish things. If I take time off from work, I feel like I should be accomplishing other things at that time. But sitting down and talking to other young people helped me realize the many different forms “rest” can take. I guess there is a small part of me that views rest, and some other forms of self-care, as a luxury that I cannot afford; it is something that maybe even a bit selfish. However, when given the time to talk to other people about it, when given the opportunity to view rest as a religious act and an important way of life, as a way to connect to God, rest somehow becomes easier to accept.
At this moment in my life, I have to accept where I am and give myself a break. That doesn’t mean that everything has been healed or fixed, it hasn’t. I am still stressed and tired and lonely and ready for life to make sense again. I have to be ok with not doing the most or being the best and take a turn at Rest. It is not easy. It is not simple. However, having time on a Saturday morning to talk with other young people and contemplate what I want and need in my life, has helped me immensely along this path. I am still not in control, and I am not sure what my next step is, but I remember that I am a part of a faithful community and that I have permission to take care of myself and give myself the rest I deserve. I remember that God will meet me where I am. Because following the Way of Love, following Jesus, includes taking time to Rest.