“You are the only resting place for my mind that truly satisfies and strengthens me. As I rest in Your peaceful Presence, true hope grows within me.”
– Jesus Listens, March 11
I learned early on that fewer things in life carried more value than a strong work ethic. It’s one of the first rhythms I remember learning as a child: work hard, accomplish goals, receive praise. Rinse, repeat.
As I met goal after goal, I learned to associate “working hard” with “receiving praise.” And I liked receiving praise. I liked knowing my parents and teachers were proud of me. So I carried this strategy into my adult life, straight into my career.
The harder I worked, the more praise I received. All of the good job’s hit my body like endorphins. Every positive remark felt like a dose of worth and self-esteem being pumped through an IV straight into my veins. And like a little child, I beamed. I felt approved. Accepted. Loved. I couldn’t get enough of that feeling, so I worked harder and harder and harder.
Four years ago, I finally hit a breaking point. Within the span of just a few months, my workload tripled, my family moved into a fixer-upper, and I got pregnant with our third baby. Somewhere between the stress of my job, the costly issues with our new (very, very old) house, and the general anxiety of what turned into a highly-monitored pregnancy, I stopped sleeping. Every night, I’d lie awake making to-do lists in my head, hyper aware of every failure, every unanswered email, every little thing slipping through the cracks. My heart raced every time I opened my laptop. I cried easily. I stopped exercising, stopped reading, stopped taking care of myself physically and mentally.
I didn’t have the language for it at the time, but I now know I was practically sprinting toward burnout. My husband could see it. My team members could see it. Everyone could see it but me. I do not recall who initially made the suggestion, but someone, at some point, asked, “Ashlee, do you need to take a break?”
A break? I remember scoffing at what seemed like an impossible suggestion at the time.
A Faith Issue
For so long, I had clung to the belief that I was the glue holding everything and everyone together. It wasn’t until I became a shell of myself—crying all the time, lashing out at my family, suffering from chronic insomnia—that I could finally admit, I can’t keep living this way. It wasn’t until God met me at my breaking point and gently began unclenching my fists—loosening the tight grasp I had on my to-do list, my productivity, and my highly valued work ethic—that I could finally see the damage my own ego, pride, and inflated sense of self-importance had caused.
For years, I have bought into the lie that I am what I do, that I am only as valuable and worthy as my last accomplishment. My identity and my creative work have often felt one in the same, twisted around each other like a soft pretzel with no beginning and no end. I have often operated from a deep-seated belief that if I stop working, stop producing, stop performing—nobody will love me anymore. I’ve convinced myself that if I clock out, for any amount of time, my whole world will shatter as a result.
Our culture loves to paint rest as a self-care issue, but rest is—and has always been—a faith issue.
God is God
Rest helps us remember that God is God, and we’re not God. Rest forces us to accept our own limitations and put our faith in the One who intentionally designed us to need Him. With this foundation, we can stop viewing rest as a sign of weakness or laziness, and instead start viewing rest as a sign of faith, trust, and glorious surrender.
There is nothing we could ever do to earn the love and grace and rest that has already been given to us. We can labor all day and all night, we can hustle and strive and bulldoze to accomplish more and more and more, but at the end of the day, none of those efforts would even begin to make a dent in what’s already been done at the cross.
You Are Not What You Do
Slowly but surely, little by little, I am learning to quiet the hustling part of my brain. The quieter I get, the more I hear God’s still, small voice, reminding me rest is a gift, not a burden. A mercy, not a sacrifice.
Dearest reader, you are not what you do. You are a beloved son or daughter of the Highest King, who gave His life so you could live. So you could rest. So you could be free from the desperate pursuit of trying to earn your keep in this world. Let rest be a reminder of how beloved you are, just as you are, with nothing to prove and nothing to earn.
Adapted from Create Anyway by Ashlee Gadd. Used by Permission by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
About The Author
Ashlee Gadd is author of Create Anyway: The Joy of Pursuing Creativity in the Margins of Motherhood and the founder of Coffee + Crumbs—a beautiful online space where motherhood and storytelling intersect. As a writer and photographer, Ashlee has spent her entire motherhood creating in the margins. When she’s not writing or vacuuming Cheerios out of the carpet, she loves making friends on the internet, eating cereal for dinner, and rearranging bookshelves. She and her husband have three kids and live in Northern California. Learn more at https://www.ashleegadd.com/.
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