I have always loved the term “rest in power”. It is usually granted to people who were powerful in their lives, and suggests that we hope they will be just as powerful in death. We on earth, hope that they will continue to influence and empower us, even though they have passed on.
But I wonder if we can use the term in a different way. In a work-driven world, a shady job market, and a shaky economy, we give the term ‘rest’ a side-eye. We burn the candle at both ends to fulfill our obligations.
What if we thought that we, too, should rest in power–even though we are still alive? How would our work be transformed if we reframed rest as a time to gain and store our energy so that we could become more powerful?
Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee are both powerful artists who lived full lives and transformed the lives of others through their art. But I am sure that, as they shook up the world, they had time where they rested–where they stood apart, renegotiated who they are, and thought carefully about how they want to contribute to their families, to the world around them.
I want to honor God by making a powerful contribution to the world around me. But I can’t do that without rest.
After the PhD, I have fielded too many questions about my plans for the future. In a bleak economy, strangers have showed concern about what job I will take next. To be honest, I have more projects than I can handle right now. I’ve been commissioned to write several academic and non-academic pieces. But still, the questions persist. Saying that I’m going to rest and write does not seem to be an acceptable answer in a country which glorifies the 24/7 hustle. At dinner parties, when I am pushed about how I will pay for my existence, I eventually politely reveal that I am in a position where I don’t have to go to work right away. Those people have abruptly ended the discussion and turned their backs on me. They were uncomfortable with the idea of an educated black woman who is not financially ruined because of her education. They were uncomfortable to encounter a black woman who has more class privilege than they realized.
Thinking about Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee, and all the other amazing black women whose work I appreciate remind me that my survival and continued success depends on my ability to be still before God, and take my cues from Him alone. Even Beyonce, queen of empire building, took a 9 month vacation as an adult. Most of us–myself included–are not in a position where we can completely stop working. But I refuse to be vilified for choosing to rest after 24 years of school. I refuse to be rushed into taking a job that God doesn’t want me to take.
I choose to see my time to rest as powerful.
As I close this entry, I realize that Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee have indeed taught me something new in their death. They have taught me to stubbornly protect my resting time. They taught me that rest is not a dirty, four-letter word. They taught me that recognizing my own power and abilities comes from solitude. The wisdom to negotiate the struggles within our daily lives comes from rest.
May your rest bring you power.