When Rest is a Portal to the Spirit


Esther Emery is a story-teller, a provocative rebel, a radical of the best sort echoing the prophets of old. The prophet that comes to mind is Miriam. Like her, Esther is beating a drum, composing fresh songs and leading the way forward into new territory. She can galvanize a community with her words. I’m so honored to have her lead off our Week with Walter as we offer our personal responses to  Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggemann.


I didn’t intend to have a spiritual awakening.

At the time I was perfectly pleased with myself, thank you very much. I thought it was the rest of the world that was nuts.

A couple of weeks into my self-imposed sabbatical from all electronica, I wrote in my journal, “I’m starting to lose it. This may or may not be related to my Year Without Internet.”

Six weeks after that I found myself writing purple prose about a yellow amoeba; I was trying to express how everything in the world was so much more interconnected than I had ever realized.

By the end of the year I was fully, truly, and hopelessly religious.

I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t intend for it to go down this way. But there was a deep and inarticulate connection between rest and spirituality. These were the results of my experiment: that a concentrated dose of silence and relaxation was nothing less than a portal into the religious life.

I kept thinking of this, as I read Walter Brueggeman’s book Sabbath as Resistance.

I kept thinking. This, right here – this. Is what I have been waiting for.

Finally, a theology that explains what happened to me.

Finally, a Christian theology that understands the maxim, “Silence is the only true religion.”

Since I got my taste for rest, and learned what it can do for me, I’ve made some countercultural choices to keep my hold on it. I have played out my rebellion. I have  forced the world to let me have my quiet time. I have refused to purchase or produce. But I have also frequently (constantly?) lost touch with what all this does for me.

I complain about the consumerist society, how we shape ourselves and one another into good consumers. I rage about how being a good consumer is not the same thing as being a fulfilled person, or a happy person, or even a big or impressive or successful person.

I constantly stand against. I constantly stand counter. I am constantly in the position of rebelling. Sometimes it feels like all I do is tell the world how I disagree with them.

What a relief it is to me, to remember what it is that I stand FOR.

I stand for a God of Sabbath. I stand for a God who rests. I stand for a Creator God who exists outside of the system of anxiety, outside of the system of production, outside of the system of dog-eats-dog and I’ll-get-mine and look-out-for-Number-One.

I stand for a God who rests.

Isn’t this funny? How even in the spirit of resistance, I can be swallowed right into the culture of anxiety? It is just so easy to forget what it was I came for.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30, NIV)

Sometimes the mystery can’t be explained. Can’t be argued. Can’t be made sense of. Sometimes the only thing to do is to rest in it. Rest! Truly rest! And trust. Be still, and rest. And discover for yourself this mysterious portal into spirit.


estheremerywriterEsther Emery used to be a freelance theatre director in Southern California. But that was a long time ago. These days she is pretty much a runaway, living off grid in a yurt and tending to three acres of near wilderness in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She writes about faith and rebellion and trying to live a totally free life at www.estheremery.com. Her free, inspiring ebook, Unleash Your Wild, can be found here. Connect on Twitter @EstherEmery.

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7 thoughts on “When Rest is a Portal to the Spirit”

  1. Kelley Nikondeha
     ·  Reply

    I stand for the God who rests, too! I was standing, cheering, hollering as read this. I feel this deep in my bones – God rests, God trusts creation, God allows – even invites – me to rest. My rest, my cessation from consumerism and the tendency to commodify things, might be when I’m most leaning into the part of be that carries God’s likeness. Is it fair to say I might be my most iconic in my resting? It makes some mysterious sense that in such a posture we’d connect with God most, or more readily. I’m with you, Esther. Let’s keep pressing in and learning – restfully, playfully, diligently.

  2. D.L. Mayfield
     ·  Reply

    Yes. I love this. I have tried so hard to love God by doing, doing, doing, and I can feel my relationship becoming brittle. Thank you for the reminder for rest.

  3. sandy hay
     ·  Reply

    In the past week Matt 11:28-30 has flashed before me several time. Is God trying to tell me something? For the past 2 Sunday’s I’ve purposed to go to church and then change up my day fro one of busyness to one of restfulness. WOW is that hard! More like restlessness than restfulness. Yet I did see/sense a difference sat the end of he day. Just a change in my thinking since reading this book, away from the commodity to a relationship . Awareness is a start but there’s a LONG way to go. Thank you Esther and Kelley for helping me look at my life from a different perspective.

  4. Seth
     ·  Reply

    This is a good reminder. Even in the resistance to dog eat dog there is anxiety? Oh, don’t I know it! Thank you for the call to reexamine rest.

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