August 17, 2021

The Rhythm of Rest - guest post by Christine Smith

 “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)

The dictionary defines rest as the state of inactivity during which the body and mind become refreshed.  As I think about my slower summer rhythm, I realize it is more restful than my regular routine because I have a break from some of my activities. My duties as a teacher are put on hold and my parenting responsibilities decrease.  God created us to need rest.  Like a good teacher, He also modeled resting for us. After God created the world and all of creation in six days, He rested for one day. When Jesus walked on this earth, He regularly left his work to be alone, pray, and sometimes sleep.

For me, the first step in resting is to stop certain activities. Stop standing and sit down.  Stop working and sleep.  Reflecting on rest as stopping has caused me to think of the rests in music.  Musical rests signal an instrument or voice should stop for a short or long time. These rests shape the music, adding beauty, excitement, and intrigue to the song.

Examining the different musical rests can serve as a good reminder of the different kinds of rest we need. Eighth rests are short, barely there, like catching our breath.  This can be like taking a break from our work to grab more water, a coffee, or a snack. Quarter rests are more significant.  I have learned from sitting with children as they learn to play piano that a quarter rest requires some counting practice.  Over time, however, a musician can feel the quarter beat and it becomes a more regular rhythm, like getting enough sleep to restore our bodies or making a habit of regulating how many sweets we eat to help us stay healthy. 

A half rest is longer.  It reminds me of practicing a regular Sabbath.  About ten years ago, I became convicted that somehow in my spiritual life I had overlooked the command of Sabbath.  I was raised with this concept but somehow as an adult, where stores were open on Sundays and part-time jobs required Sunday work, I forgot how important a weekly rest is and that it is a command, not a suggestion.  After a few bumpy years of practice, Sabbath has taught me how to rest and has become a regular habit that I now look forward to and delight in. Sabbath rest is essential because it recharges me and gives me new perspective.

The last type of rest is the whole rest, not playing for a whole measure.  This is the kind of rest during a busy, tiring season that I yearn for and look forward to.  This rest is longer, extended.  It allows us to stop our hustle and bustle to either be still and do nothing or allow new activities to fill that space, just like when some instruments in an orchestra stop so that others take the melody.  For me, this rest comes on a holiday, where I leave many responsibilities at home and instead enjoy extended time reading, playing with my family, and delighting in a different corner of God’s magnificent creation.

Just like the psalmist prayed in Psalm 90:17, we need to ask God to establish the work of our hands, including the breaks that enable our work to continue and be fruitful.  When we accept the pauses the Holy Spirit leads us to take, our souls will be restored and the rhythm of work and rest will create beautiful melodies in our lives. 

Which type of rest might the Lord be asking you to practice in this season of your life? It is my prayer that He will help you discern which green pasture and still waters He is calling you to today.


  1. Dear Christine, this is beautifully and thoughtfully written. I'm learning not to underestimate the value of quarter rests throughout the day. Pausing from writing or housework by going out in the garden to observe nature nurtures my body and soul.
    Blessings - Wendy Mac ๐Ÿ•Š️๐ŸŽถ

    1. Christine Smith8:50 pm GMT-7

      Thank you for your kind feedback. I too need to work on quarter rests. I am learning the value of taking more breaks throughout the day so I am not so tired in the evening.

  2. I loved the way you likened the different types of rest to musical rests. Very clever and thought-provoking. Blessings to you.

  3. A well-written and thoughtful post, Christine. The comparison of rest in our lives to rests in music is clever and insightful. I found this sentence especially meaningful, " When we accept the pauses the Holy Spirit leads us to take, our souls will be restored and the rhythm of work and rest will create beautiful melodies in our lives."
    Thanks for joining us!

  4. Hi Christine and welcome to the group! Thank you for the little study on musical rests and how we can apply a sense of their meaning to our lives. After thinking a bit about these rests I seem to be in between the half rest and whole rest. I am retired yet involved in projects to help other people. I don't punch a clock, but I am accountable to others in a volunteer project. I don't feel stress but carry on with an objective in mind. I can take breaks when I want, yet carry on with my task. Oh wow, now I have to do more thinking on your
    rest ideas. :) I hope we read a piece from you again. By the way, I'm in the greater Vancouver as well!

  5. Christine Smith8:52 pm GMT-7

    Thank you all for your kind feedback. I tend to see life in analogies so it was fun to share this one with you. I am looking forward to engaging more with this group.

  6. As a musician, but not a good one, I understand the rests between passages. When I retire, I need to take a long rest. I've been pushing hard, like a synthesizer but my tune is coming to a close.

  7. Welcome to our blog, Christine!! I love, love, loved your metaphor of the different musical rests. So applicable!


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