As an ASC teacher and mentor, my schedule can be very demanding. Each day is jam packed with attending morning Mass, teaching classes, serving as a substitute, coaching, exercising, grading, and lesson planning. Teaching is surely no 9-5 job. As a teacher, there are good days and bad days, fun days and exhausting days, and many in between. But, when then does one rest? Yes, we strive for those precious hours of sleep recommended by physicians …. Yet, do we really rest?
Each day, I desire to give my all to students: care for them, inspire them to learn, challenge them to grow, and assist them in developing a relationship with Christ. I desire to be present and open to my students, while serving as an example by my words and deeds. I sometimes even find myself obsessing over planning that perfect lesson, crafting that awesome activity, or trying to organize every minute of class. Especially as a new teacher, I am pushed to new limits and constantly learning how to better my students, my colleagues, and myself. It seems as if there is always work to be done.
Rest. I thought I knew what it meant to rest: take a break from work, read a novel or a work of Augustine, grab a large coffee, exercise, or play catch. However, I have slowly learned that this really is not work. If you take a closer look at my list, you will notice that I have listed action verbs. When I rest, I am always doing something.
Over the recent spring break, I traveled to St. Louis to make a silent retreat. On the first day, the director told me that I was tired. I didn’t believe him, and yet I slept longer than I can remember. My spiritual director chastised me for wanting to work over the break by reading books and setting spiritual goals (demands). Instead, he encouraged me to sit outside, to bask in the sun. Outside, I focused on the chirping of the birds, the flowing waters of the Mississippi, the passing of the barges and tugboats, and the many squirrels chasing after one another. I was transformed into tranquility, separated from the worries of the future, the many tests and essays to be graded, and the learning objectives to create. It was there in the silence, I found myself in prayer and in the presence of God. I could not escape, nor did I want to leave. I found peace in a world full of noise, distraction, and violence. I was able to rest in God, receiving that precious nurturing, encouraging, revitalization, and love. My battery packs were recharged, allowing me to return to Rockhurst High School (Kansas City, MO) with great energy and enthusiasm.
Even though my retreat ended, I still find rest today. Each day, I take at least 5 minutes to myself. I find a pew in the chapel or a nice bench outside. I focus on nature or art. I ask the Holy Spirit to clear my mind of any distractions. I sit in the silence, free from my phone or iPad, in the presence of the Creator. I pray, turning completely to God, seeking to find rest in Him. I remind myself of Jesus telling us that it is in Him alone that we find rest.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).