Aside from getting married and having kids, or becoming a priest and receiving a parish, there are few times in life which are filled with as many changes, responsibilities, transitions and things to be stressed about than when one is in college.
College students are famous for pulling all-nighters and persevering through the pressure of academic success to realize their potential.
Very often, rest is one of the last things on the mind of a college student.
The next midterm, the next essay, the next annotated bibliography, the next lecture you have to caffeinate yourself to near-toxic levels in order to actually pay attention and learn something, or the next shift that you have to work so that you can avoid paying high interest on those private loans that you had to take out in order to actually be at this place of stress that everyone says leads to success, the next this and the next that, all seem more important than rest.
Rest is a funny thing. When you ask someone what they think rest is, they’ll probably reply with something to the effect of taking a nap, binging a show, praying for a while, playing video games or reading a book that has been collecting dust on their shelf for far too long.
While all of these can be elements of what it means to participate in a restful activity, none of them come close to describing what it means to fundamentally be at rest.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone at UD who is unfamiliar with Genesis 2:2-3, “On the seventh day God had completed the work he had been doing… God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”
Now, obviously, God is in need of no rest, yet these verses seem to resound in our minds and hearts.
In all of the business of the week, the essays, midterms and personal crises, we seem to be anything but in a state of rest. We go out into the world, encounter potential and form it into something that seems to constitute the various aspects of our lives all the time.
Whether this forming is taking notes in class, listening to a friend and giving them a hug or studying for a test, it is clear that we take potential and give it form by the way we live out our lives.
Our model for achieving this is, obviously, God. God is the Former of all that is, and the Former of our potential to form ourselves, in the limited manner that we are able.
Yet, we hear that God rested.
Everything that God created in our physical existence is locked into time, and every seventh day is a day of rest. Everything cycles back to the day of rest, no matter how grueling it is.
We hear an echo of rest when we read Matthew 11:28, which reads, “Come to me, all who labor… and I will give you rest.”
Our very nature as being creatures that are burdened implies that our nature requires rest, but not only the physical sort.
Rest, similar to the conception of states in heaven, hell and purgation, is a state of being and is a state which is clearly demarcated as being fundamentally good and of God.
In order to encounter the potential present in the world, modeling the Creator who lovingly formed us, we look to His example and realize that we must do our best to strive to be in a state of perpetual rest, peace and trust.
This doesn’t mean that we need to slack off, rather it means that we must encounter the business of every day with an attitude of trust in God, in His plan and in our own potential to be truly good people, despite our flaws.
It is when we doubt ourselves, others and God that we slip out of a state of rest and grace and begin to despair.
Take heart and trust in the goodness of yourself and He who created you.