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The power of stepping back: How to rest the Catholic way


Shutterstock I Tananyaa Pithi

Daniel Esparza - published on 05/10/24

Taking a step back allows us to return with a fresh perspective, potentially uncovering new insights and improvements.

In our world, where constant activity is the norm, the concept of rest is often overlooked — or even frowned upon. We prioritize project completion and exercise schedules, and view downtime as a luxury. However, a closer examination of Scripture and nature reveals a profound truth: rest is not merely a human need, but a fundamental principle woven into the very fabric of creation.

Genesis states that after creating the universe, God “rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2). This act of divine pause is not merely a scriptural footnote. It is a powerful statement about the inherent value of rest. Even God, in His infinite power, recognized the necessity of stepping back, allowing space for completion — and even for the eventual transformation of that which He created.

This truth extends to every aspect of our professional lives from the beginning. Consider the baker’s process of allowing bread dough to rise. This seemingly inactive period allows the gluten to develop, resulting in a lighter, tastier loaf. Our bodies also reflect this principle. While strenuous exercise is beneficial, it is also important to allow muscles to repair and rebuild through rest. This process of rest allows muscles to become stronger.

Rest and growth

Similarly, periods of rest often precede periods of creative growth. As with a finished painting, a book, an essay, a completed project requires time to settle and breathe. Taking a step back allows us to return with a fresh perspective, potentially uncovering new insights and improvements. That’s why essays written the night before the deadline don’t really cut it.

Allowing for rest is not mere waiting; it is a conscious decision to trust in a different kind of work — the work of letting go and stepping back.

In more ways than one, rest is about relinquishing control, allowing processes to unfold naturally, and trusting that time will affect positive change in ways that may not be immediately apparent.

Trusting in Another

The Gospels provide a compelling illustration of this concept, particularly in the numerous instances where Jesus is observed resting. Even the Son of God, despite the demands of his ministry, recognized the value of rest. These periods of apparent inactivity were not merely physical breaks; they were a sign of His complete trust in the Father’s plan.

By embracing the power of allowing things to rest, we can also learn this valuable lesson. We transition from a fast-paced, production-oriented approach to a more contemplative rhythm, allowing for transformation in both the products we create and ourselves. 

Rest is a shift from “doing” to “being”: a reminder that true growth often occurs in the quiet spaces of letting go.

Catholic LifestyleChristian virtuesPersonal Growth
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