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Friday, September 4, 2009

Finding Rest

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

---- Matthew 11:28-30

My first week in law school (“orientation week”), I was put into a small group of about ten of my peers, and a “mentor” (more properly described as a mere “tour guide,” as our only future interactions with her after that week were brief awkward nods of acknowledgement when we passed each other in the halls) showed us around the various parts of our school’s campus (basically two buildings, one draped in a basic taupe and the other in gray: both were as boring architecturally as the colors used for their exteriors). What stood out was where we were at the end of the tour. By mid-afternoon we were led by our mentor to a bar down the street from the law school. I found this a bit odd. What made this trip stranger still was that we were not the only 1L group there. In fact, our entire first year class, at various points in the afternoon, were led there by their respective tour guides to that same bar. My initial snide thought that our mentor was trying to be cool by leading us here was quickly replaced by a befuddlement most aptly described as “Huh???” Our 2L shepherd informed us that this is the place where most of the law students came to unwind after a long day, week, and/or exam. This was my introduction to how law students find rest.

Over the next three years I learned (and in some cases adopted) other things that the typical law student does to unwind or find rest during law school. These things all fell under the umbrella of “vegging.” I never thought these activities were detrimental in any way. “Vegging” by playing some video games, watching my favorite TV shows, or having a few drinks never seemed harmless (and to a small degree I would still agree with this statement), but what I realized was that these activities were harmful specifically because 1) they were at heart a reflection of my selfishness, 2) they were merely coping mechanisms (and thus in reality just self-help devices), and 3) nothing ever changed as a result. I did not look at my work in a better light nor was I really refreshed.

I realized the harmfulness of these activities through a story that an attorney friend of mine shared with a group of law students.

He told us that he coped well with the regular everyday rigors of his job, but on some days, days during which nothing goes right or everything and everyone require his attention, he was just spent. So spent, in fact, that when he came home, the last thing he wanted to do was talk. This would be fine, of course, if he didn’t have a wife and four kids. He dreaded opening the front door to his house to see his wife and kids, instead of looking forward to it. He dreaded it because he knew that now he was expected to be a husband and a father, but all he really wanted to do was run quickly to his study and fall into his favorite chair and not have to talk or think. He did not want to engage in his world, he wanted a temporary escape, he wanted to “veg,” and he knew this was wrong. This awareness, however, was not the most interesting (and sad) part of my friend’s story. Rather, it was his analysis of why he felt this way. He believed that his desire to simply be alone for a bit, to escape from his world, existed because he was not engaging in an intimate relationship with Christ! He believed that Jesus desired to hear him, engage him, and speak with him, and his own inability to share with Jesus the various things that wore out his patience and energy caused him to want to withdraw, to be just like every lawyer he knew.

He is absolutely correct. As believers we have, in Christ, not just our Savior, Lord, and advocate, but also our counselor, our friend, and our place of rest. In this passage Christ promises rest to the laborers and to the heavy-laden (in other words, all of us!). But this rest comes not just from a once-in-a-while prayer to him when we need him (the preceding passage specifically condemns such thinking – Matt. 11.16-24), it comes from having an intimate relationship with him. In fact, verse 29 is an invitation to a relationship that is personal and intimate. We know that to know God the Father, we must first know the Son, and this in turn helps us to know ourselves. Lest we try to limit what Christ says here as a reference to “merely” keeping the Sabbath, the verses immediately following specifically address the Sabbath, indicating that verse 29 is indeed about the everyday—an admonition to share with him our burden the moment we bear it.

This world, our jobs, and our studies often enslave us. Our desire to worship can get caught up in these things. The gospel, however, is a promise of freedom—but it is a freedom to enter into a relationship. We are being reminded here that we have a higher calling, one that can be seen through how we can find our rest.

So how do you find your rest? Is it with the world? Or with Christ?

~ Dan Kim, Deputy Director of Law Student Ministries, Christian Legal Society

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