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The Importance of Rest and Remembrance

Rest.  It’s a common concept, but elusive to actually achieve in this modern, hectic world.

Yet, God commands us to rest anyway.  Yes, even in 2022.

Faithful listeners of the Good Faith podcast know that I’ve been on sabbatical for the past month, especially since my co-host David French brought it up every week as a quasi-lament.  

This week, rather than diving into another hot political or cultural issue, David and I talk about  the nature of sabbath rest and the spiritual discipline of letting go, stepping away from our illusions of ultimate control and placing all our striving in God’s hands. 

As Tim Keller wrote, “To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.” So what does that actually mean for people with jobs and families?

And how does grief affect our view of rest?

In the second half of this episode, I also share some thoughts about the nature of remembrance, loss, and hope based on my experience at the 9/11 Memorial and the Statue of Liberty. Turns out, having the proper view of loss — and being able to grieve that loss — affects one’s ability to truly rest.

Watch below to hear David and me discuss:

  • The difference between a sabbatical and vacation;
  • How people with jobs may practice rest;
  • The purpose of memorials and how they can demonstrate loss;
  • The proper role of grief in our lives and in public spaces;
  • And how understanding loss allows us to properly engage in sabbath rest.

DAVID FRENCH: During this podcast, I said we were going to talk about rest and remembrance.  Curtis, a couple of days before we recorded this, you indicated you wanted to share your experience at the 911 memorial, and how that’s triggered in you quite a few thoughts. So why don’t you share that experience?

CURTIS CHANG: So, I took a vacation with my family, and we went to New York City and went to the 9/11 Memorial and the Statue of Liberty. I’ve never been to the 9/11 Memorial before. David, have you been there?

DAVID FRENCH: I’ve been to the 9/11 Memorial, and every person, if you’ve never been, should go if you have an opportunity. It’s just powerful.

CURTIS CHANG:  I’ve been pondering, why is it so powerful? What is it about it? Certainly the commemorated events are powerful, but there are a lot of big events celebrated by various memorials. What’s special and distinctive about the 9/11 Memorial that deeply moved me?

Almost alone of all major monuments in American culture, the 9/11 Memorial actually recognizes loss versus trying to recapture what was lost.

There’s a difference between recognizing loss and trying to recapture what was lost.  Most monuments attempt to, in some way, recapture what was lost.  When some heroic figure dies, we build a statue that tries to capture their resemblance physically in marble or stone.  Or the memorial attempts to recapture what was lost in the event it commemorates.

The genius of the 9/11 Memorial is that the architecture of that memorial actually attempts to encapsulate the loss.

For those of you who haven’t been, the public memorial is two outlines of the two buildings of the twin towers. It’s an outline of it, and it’s a cavern. Rather than erecting some visible marker, it’s actually a marker of loss.  It’s a deep cavern. Surrounding it, etched in marble, are the names of the people who lost their lives, grouped by the people with whom they lost their lives.

In my case, I just randomly happened to walk up to it and see a little flag at one of the names.  It was a little, tiny little flag planted on the name of Todd Beamer. Todd was one of the heroes of Flight 93 who led the storming of that cockpit and saved probably thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives.

It’s not a big, heroic, colossal statue of Todd Beamer charging the cockpit. It’s just his name along with everybody else’s.

Along the sides of this cavern is flowing water, which flows down from all the names surrounding this big cave before going into a deeper abyss.  It disappears from view and is just endless.

It’s really trying to recognize loss.

It’s not replacing the building, and it’s not erecting a statue to heroes like Todd Beamer. All of us, heroic or non-heroic, the average person, experienced loss on that day. 

Standing there, at least for me, I felt carried along in that flow of water meant to convey that sense of loss. And I remember looking around and thinking, Yeah, we’re all headed for loss. Loss is inevitable.

The Memorial is a recognition of the loss of the lives of people in 9/11, but also something deeply human: all of life involves loss. We’re all part of it. We’re all caught in this flow of loss and we can’t avoid that.

DAVID FRENCH: Two memorials on the National Mall that have always most impacted me: one is the Vietnam Memorial, which is absolutely staggering.  I remember when it was first commissioned, it was incredibly controversial. Most other war memorials build up a tribute to heroism.  

You couldn’t do that with Vietnam.  So what do you do? The controversy around it was that it was too dark, just too bleak, with all of these names of the deceased.

But the craziest thing happened when it was constructed.  It meant so much to the families of the people who had paid that ultimate price.  And it also meant so much to the people who actually served to see that incredible recognition of what was sacrificed.

You have to have a heart of stone to go there and not be moved.

There’s another memorial that is much the same, but in a slightly different way: the Korean War Memorial is composed of statues of soldiers walking through a facsimile of the Korean countryside.

You can see the cost of war on their faces, yet they’re still marching forward. They’re still moving forward. It’s one of the most profoundly moving memorials I’ve seen in its own way, because you feel like you’re actually getting a glimpse of what it is like when someone is facing the ultimate test and still pressing forward

CURTIS CHANG: I’ve seen that and I know exactly what you’re talking about.  It’s important for any human being to see these, because we all will experience loss.  If we are trying to avoid loss, or to constantly recapture what was lost, we’re going to live a futile, exhausting life.

[This excerpt was lightly edited for clarity.]

HOSTS: Curtis Chang and David French

PRODUCER: Kris Carter

The Good Faith podcast comes out every Saturday on The Dispatch. Listen and subscribe here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Curtis Chang is the founder of Redeeming Babel.

Image Credit: 9/11 Memorial 

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