Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Image: Elijah Fed by an Angel by Ferdinand Bol
Image: Elijah Fed by an Angel by Ferdinand Bol

“Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. 

But he himself went on a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank, then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”

1 Kings 19:1-8

After slaying 500 prophets of Baal, the threat of Jezebel sends Elijah into the wilderness with thoughts of death. This is how many of us in education feel as we approach the end of the school year. For Elijah, it is rest, sustenance, hydration that restores his strength. I suspect the same will work for you and your colleagues.

In Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, poet and author, David Whyte, writes “Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving; an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also psychologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up the worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally and figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bull’s eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.”

A sense of rest and recharge looks different for everyone. Because of that, in our professional lives, we must be intentional about setting boundaries around that space for ourselves and those in our school communities. I challenge you to have conversations with your team about honoring boundaries so that rest can occur. During summer break, when a simple inquiry regarding work might seem like a threat from Jezebel, what might it look like if there were an agreement to set aside a period of radio silence regarding all things work related? If you are one who has an endless outward need to reward yourself by accomplishing goals, what might it look like if those goals were like those of Elijah? Eat. Sleep. Repeat. 

By setting boundaries and committing to a period of recharge, maybe we can all experience rest facilitated not by the tender compassion shown to Elijah by an angel, but by the care, compassion, and respect for each other.

Beth Lawrence is Head of School at St. Thomas Early Learning Center in College Station, TX.