Editor’s Note: Lay Missioner Nora McMahon describes the process (and standstills) of arriving at her new mission site in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She notes the importance of rest as a gift, contrary to cultural acclamation.
Preparing to leave for Bolivia was perhaps more hectic than actually traveling there. Repacking my bags three times, trying to say goodbye to everyone and hoping I wasn’t forgetting someone, last minute projects that I promised to help on, and so on. That is until the snow came. Two days before I was set to leave for Bolivia, the biggest snowstorm in over two decades hit my town (I would know, there are pictures of 5-year-old me with snow above my head to date it).
Suddenly I was stuck and had all my plans for the next few days thrown out the window. I spent the last few days in New York stuck inside with my family and, while I was frustrated at the time, I now realize what an opportunity and grace that was. What amounted to two days of shoveling snow, hot chocolate, and movies is the best possible memory I could wish for before leaving.
It also made the contrast to where I was going quite funny to me. From a snowstorm to summer rain, it’s hard to get more different.
Once I was out of the snow though it was nonstop once again. From the flights to getting acclimated to the altitude my first few days here in Bolivia have been exciting and rapid paced. That is until Sunday.
Did you know that in Bolivia they have a strict quarantine enforced on Sunday? No cars, no shops, and no pedestrians either. People stay in their houses all day. Can you imagine it? The world just stopping for a moment, one day a week? It may be frustrating to some, irritating or just another way to waste time. All I could think of though was that it is the definition of a day of rest. A true sabbath.
Yes, I had things I wanted to do, places to see, and a whole new city to get to know, but after coming from a naturally enforced quarantine I was able to take a step back for a moment and recognize the gift that was in front of me. A day of rest and unusual quiet was exactly what I needed.
I have been hearing more and more from some of my favorite podcasts and writers about a promotion of the idea that we as 21st century human beings not only do not rest, but that we do not know what it truly means to do so. To rest your mind, body, and soul one day a week. Not to make plans for that day, to prepare for your rest in advance, and to not let anything steer you from it.
I’m not claiming to be an expert or even to being very good at it, but one thing I do know is that it is more necessary than ever. Quarantine and Covid may have convinced many that because they are doing almost everything from home they need a vacation and to get out of the house, not to rest in it. That is part of the problem though; no one is resting at home, everyone is always “on” be it on email, social media, or Zoom. This is not only the wrong approach, it is the exact opposite of the right one.
A day of rest, true rest, is possible for a lot of people now if they would only write it into their schedules. I for one am looking forward to next Sunday, to learn what it really means to rest and to try my hand at it again.
Reflection Question: How can we cultivate rest within our lives? Within our hearts? What does that look like for you?