Natalie Ogbourne


Two years ago my family, parents, brother and sister-in-law, nephew and niece, along with the ones who live in my house–the whole tribe—made the drive to our current summer gathering place: Campfire Bay in Minnesota. That was the year that the Minnesota government shut down while it wrangled over the budget.

Minnesota itself remained open, of course, but the interstate rest areas were closed.

We didn’t suffer too much. The gas stations and fast food restaurants along the way filled the gap and provided us and the other interstate travelers a place to stop for a restroom, a drink, or a stretch. What they couldn’t offer a weary traveler was rest.

My family has long history of driving straight through to distant destinations and an equally long history of pulling into a rest area to, well, rest. My dad cat naps and my husband does, too. Our kids have eaten their share of happy meals, but when we’re on the road, they eat food from a cooler so they can run off some energy and rest their backsides. We know how to use a rest area.

But sometimes I live like the rest areas are closed.

Sometimes it’s because I forget that I have a choice.

Sometimes it’s habit. Or pride. Or convenience. Or stubbornness.

It doesn’t matter why. It looks the same. Barely stopping at the signs. Not looking up from the whatever Important Thing I am doing when my husband or children come in to tell me something and having no idea what they said when they’ve gone. Haphazard meals consumed and cleared away before any real conversation occurs. Disconnected living.

Whether I notice or not, eventually someone—or something—will let me know. The quality of my relationships will deteriorate. Or my sanity. Or even my health. My husband will mention it. Or my children. Or even my dad.

And then I have to make a decision: Continue to barrel down the road at full speed or slow down and pull off so that I’m ready for the next stretch of road.

It feels easy to stay in the habit of living like the rest areas are closed—to settle for fast food and fast stops and fast lives. It isn’t easy to pull off and rest—to linger at the table, look at people’s faces, read the book or play the game.

Sometimes it feels more spiritual to keep on going, to ignore the signs and just move, but I’m not certain that it is. Jesus sent the disciples out to preach and cast out demons and heal the sick. They returned and told him all about it. His response was not to send them right out immediately. He said, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile,” and they got in a boat and went away. (from Mark 6:31-32)

The rest seemed short. Interrupted. The crowd saw where they were going and beat them to the destination.

But maybe the destination wasn’t the rest. Maybe the rest was the pause along the way.

My family has aged into a busy season, one which makes it hard to pull off. I’ve asked them to think about what rest means to them and how we can live in such a way that they find it, even in the midst. I’m looking forward to hearing from them.

How about you? What does rest mean to you? What is one way you can pull off for a short rest along the way?

Sharing this week at Unforced Rhythms.