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Rest As An Act of Resistance

A few weeks ago, while I was sitting in the Los Angeles Airport waiting for a connecting flight to Sacramento, I reconnected with a young woman activist who introduced me to Tricia Hersey and her wonderful movement centered around rest as a form of resistance to oppression. As I parted company with the young woman in the airport, I realized how much sense this idea makes when one takes a hard look at the oppression equations that have such a firm hold on us.

Folks who are oppressed are led to believe that they have no right to rest. If you stop, that confining energy of oppression might take you over entirely and then what will you do? Along with this is the deep sense of having to stay vigilant in order to barely stay a few steps ahead of all of the negativity that the forces of oppression offer. Along with this is the deep sense of commitment that we have to capitalism and the belief that if we invest enough of ourselves, our hopes and work hard enough we can make changes.

While it is true that we have to be intentional when we are trying to make changes in our behavior, when it comes to rest, we need to lay aside the capitalist notions about investments and returns and simply accept that rest will bring its own rewards. Recently when I was speaking about this with a group of people there was a concerned raised about talking about capitalism as being a part of the problem that makes it hard to rest. The person seemed concerned that we were wishing to abolish capitalism. This was an unfortunate response because it missed the point. In the case of rest as resistance, we are not concerning ourselves with the economic structure for the moment, this conversation is about the way in which we have allowed the narratives around production and worth to hinder us from being able to value taking care of ourselves. We expect those to rest who have received a certain economic status and that attitude needs to be abandoned.

If we are not overworked, sleep deprived and basically medicating ourselves with both legal and sometimes illegal substances to remain on the treadmills that we have invited onto our paths, it is hard to believe that we are alright. The point is that we are alright because all of us deserve to be able to pay attention to ourselves and to hear our heartbeat while we explore what is within us. Rest makes it possible to hear ourselves as cannot be done when we are constantly engaged with the noises of life to the extent that it is impossible to hear our voices or the voice of the Creator. Thus, we become much like that weeping willow tree that Dr. Howard Thurman talks about being blown back and forth and any other way that wind sees fit to blow it. We have little to say about the ways in which our lives move along the journey when we are exhausted.

Tricia Hersey says that rest is an act of resistance. Thus, quickly prompting us to ask, “resistance against what?” It is resistance against the narrative of not being good enough, not being enough in general, it is almost as if you are having to earn the space that you take up on the earth and all of those sensibilities have to be resisted if there is going to be any true liberation. Hersey goes on to argue that rest will help to center your divinity as a human being.

But more importantly than anything that has been said up to this point is the notion that,“ You Are Worthy of Care!” Oppressed people have been led to believe that they have less worthiness than others which makes them have less of a right to rest. Everyone is worthy of c

As we prepare for Thanksgiving it would do all of us well to think about these few days in terms of our need for rest. We could make this holiday about rest and listening to see how we will be directed by better inner clarity and the Creator to carry on regarding true and sustainable liberation for ourselves and our fellow pilgrims who are on this journey.

It takes finding a new way to see. It takes courage.

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