The Starting Place of Growth with Curtis Zachary

The Starting Place of Growth with Curtis Zachary

Today we're starting a new theme for the month, which is growth. We’re talking about rest as a starting place for growth because as single parents, we carry so much. Mental, emotional, physical, and personal growth of any kind feels like a luxury. But we need to do it because we have a lot to heal from. When we think about rest, often we think I'll rest when I die. Rest is one of those things that elude us and yet we know we have to do it. Of course, try to get six to eight hours of sleep every day, but it goes beyond just getting a good night's sleep. The kind of rest we’re talking about today is the bedrock of growth and that's why we wanted to start this series off with rest.

Our guest today is our friend Curtis Zachary, known as CZ.  CZ is perhaps best known for his deep empathy and his contagious passion for the gospel, which defies the barriers of age, ethnicity, and religion, whether teaching or speaking or writing. CZ provides a perspective on the gospel that is raw, accessible, and relevant. He's the author of a book called Soul Rest: Reclaim Your Life, Return to Sabbath.  

What is rest?

Rest is something that transcends just the physicality of what it means to be rested or restful. Think about it in terms of soul rest. This rest seeks to satisfy something that is deeper than what you can touch in your human way of thinking. Even in human processes, there is something that is so unsettled and deficient within us that it can only be satisfied by something supernatural that comes from God alone.

Why is rest so vital to our growth?

The most simple and clear way to think about it is the practical way the human body works. When you think about the drivenness that we have toward goals or achieving things that require effort, that requires a high level of functioning. Growth is connected to all of this. But when you think about the physicality of the body, in order to be able to function at a high level, your body needs to have been rested so that it can pull it off.

Take running for example. After running a half marathon your body and mind feel beat down from enduring the race. If someone were to ask you immediately after you finish running a half marathon to start another one, you wouldn’t be able to. It doesn't matter how much drive, initiative, or passion you have for running, you physically could not do it. You would need to rest first.

Growth as rest is vital because you have to learn not only to work for rest, but you need to learn to work from a place of rest. Because just like in the function of your body, it's only from rest that you will be able to sustainably do the things that you're hoping for. Think about it in terms of agriculture. There is an element of letting the ground rest so that it can be prepared for growth. God built this into the fabric of all things.  It's a great reminder of how it’s true for all of us.

Reframe rest as a source of growth rather than a reward for something that you’ve done. One of the things that's so beautiful is how from the very beginning there’s a picture of God's intention for humanity when it comes to rest. Rest was the beginning point of the conversation. It wasn't something that was only provided as a result of what you've done. It's important to keep that in mind, because if you can have this framework for rest, it will change what you think you deserve when it comes to rest. One of the biggest barriers to rest is that people will feel they haven't done enough to justify it. They haven’t accomplished enough. There aren't enough checks on the list. This kind of thinking will continually steal the opportunity for you to find rest.

What are some ways that we can prioritize rest as part of our lives?

The real-life nature of how things work is important to have as an overlay when you have conversations about things that you think are aspirationally true when it comes to practicing the way of Jesus. It's easy in a vacuum to talk about ideas and how important they are and what you should be doing. But when you think about the practicality of life, some things aren’t realistic. There are three words that are important that can help you uphold prioritizing rest in the midst of whatever season you’re in.

The first word is intentional. It may seem obvious, but if you want to find rest, you have to show up for it. You actually have to try. You have to schedule. Most people will immediately assume they don't have any time on their schedule. They won’t even attempt to look at their schedule and see if there are windows. Instead of assuming, be intentional to find the time in your schedule. For example, the 10 minutes in your car after you dropped your kids off at school, you could intentionally say during this time, “God, I'm going to give you an opportunity to speak to me,” or “I'm going to be still and I'm going to be able to be quiet to receive what I need.” Most people write off every window of time as not enough but if you are intentional, you’ll be able to figure out there’s actually an opportunity.  

The second word is substantial.
You have the ability to be intentional, but you need to make the time substantial. If you’re looking at your phone the whole time or if you allow your mind to wander to things that you need to be doing, it, therefore, negates the opportunity for stillness. You’ve been intentional, but you haven't really seen a substantial return.  

For example, if you decide you want to read the Bible every day for 10 minutes. You might be intentional but sadly the only thing you get is the ability to say, “I read the Bible every day but did I meet God there?” It’s not substantial. Substantial is showing up regardless of how much time it is and saying this practice will help you to find rest. Show up to it believing that God will meet you and you’re going to do everything you can, whether it's silencing your phone or walking outside to show up to say, “I'm here and I hope to receive.”

The third word is sustainable. A lot of times you get really discouraged because of your busy single-parent schedule. One of the things that will negate being intentional is not being able to keep it up. What kind of expectation can you have that you’ll be able to regularly do this? Sometimes you can stop on the front end and say, “What can I do for the foreseeable future that I can continue at a regular interval that will allow me to return back to this place?” And for some people, it might be once a month. You might immediately say that's just not enough considering what you need. Before you dismiss it ask yourself, “Do I have once a month right now?” This is a time you can have intentional seeking, substantial connection, and sustainability.

There’s no prescriptive answer. It looks different for different people. People's schedules and seasons look different. There's no list of things that will specifically provide rest for every single person. Take the “why” principles behind the “what” of what you’re trying to do and it will get you to a place where you’ll be able to see change.

Can rest contribute to changing our mindset from “God, I want you to change everything” to “God, I want you to change me?”  

If you have a garden, you can't make flowers grow. That's just not in your skillset. Someone who's a gardener might hear that and disagree. God is the one in the dealings of growing flowers. You can plant flowers, you can cultivate the ground around the flowers, and you can water flowers but you don't grow flowers even as a master gardener.

The growth of the flower is God's doing. It's not your doing. But what you can do is prepare the ground for growth. You can look at the ground and you can determine whether there are rocks in the soil. Are there weeds that are choking out life? Is there enough sunlight? You can help to manage what's happening around the growth, but the growth will happen as a product of what you’re doing to tend to the ground.

It can look like nothing or it can look like a whole bunch of stuff without an immediate return. Both are true. You want to do everything you can to change your circumstances because your circumstances are hard. But sometimes the best thing you can do in the midst of what seemingly needs to change is to be proactive and rest. For example, if you have lost your job and you’re worried about what the next job will look like or when it'll come and you’re doing everything you can.

You submit your resumes and make calls. There's an opportunity in this season, which has very difficult circumstances surrounding it. But you have to make a choice. The choice is to frame it as if you’re just waiting for the next thing or you’re anticipating what you’re going to be doing next. Or in that same season, reframing it and saying “I'm resting until the next thing presents itself.” This might seem unrealistic, but when you think about it, either posture is not going to expedite the process. It's going to take the same amount of time for you to get a return call from those jobs as you would if you were stressing and worrying about it every day.
It takes a different type of mindset because again, it goes to our deservedness. who am I to walk outside while I don't have a job? Well, what are you going to do? Sit inside and worry about it?

You could tell yourself you have an opportunity that you don't know if you’ll ever have again, like having four weeks off with your kids at home or being able to take a walk during the daytime because you’re not in an office.

It takes a different mindset and reframing because it goes to our deservedness. You might feel “Who am I to walk outside while I don't have a job?” Well, what are you going to do? Sit inside and worry about it? Get people to call you back and therefore deteriorate your inner self even more, rather than experiencing the gift of a difficult season. You can receive benefits from the difficult season.

Does rest have to be physically laying flat on your back, in silence and solitude?

It's a really important question. A lot of us have learned about rest, especially those of us who have been in and around the church for any amount of time.  To practice Sabbath or rest means to be inactive. To not physically move. So, the least physicality, the more restful something is. Gardening or doing any sort of physical or manual work with your hands, prescriptively for a lot of us, is not rest, it’s work. It's not possible. It’s important to reframe your definition of rest because so many of us have established views that have been so embedded for a long time.

The idea of rest as truly transcendent beyond physicality is something inside of us that requires satisfaction that has very little to do with what we are physically doing or not doing. One of the ways that you can know that rest is happening is when you’re able to disassociate from what you normally do for work. If you’re outside trying to figure out how to plant flowers and that is a far departure from what you do for work. Whenever you’re able to feel completely untethered from what normally taxes your mind and what vocationally looks like a day-to-day sense of productivity or accomplishment—is rest. It leans into the essence of what God's intention for rest is when it comes to the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was a gift to humanity so that you can stop doing the work that you do with your hands and remember the work that can only be done by the hand of God. When you get into a season where you’re hoping to find rest, it's optimal to be able to create a situation where the barrier of what you produce, what you make, what you do and what you build is removed, and you're able to say, “I remember the work and the productivity and the goodness that comes from God alone.”

How do we accomplish a healthy cycle of rest? What does that look like?

Know that it's really countercultural and you will get pushback because there is an expected sense of engagement with life that feels inevitable. There are certain things that seem like there is not an option that quite frankly, is simply not true, like having a smartphone. I switched my phone to something called the light phone. The light phone texts, calls and has a calendar on it but that’s it.

The reason it's important to bring up is that the decision was vitally important for me when it comes to developing a cycle of rest because what felt inevitable to me before was having a smartphone. You have to have a smartphone. But when I was able to take a step back to say, “Do I really need a smartphone?” The answer was no. The first question I asked myself was, “What kind of life do I want to live? Gaining that answer allowed me to evaluate other decisions. It’s not bad or wrong to have a smartphone. I wanted to live a life that has simplicity at the forefront, and I want to exhibit presence of mind.

Those are two things that are essential to my life. I decided that one way to accomplish this was to make a decision to change my phone. This was a shift that ended up becoming important. Another example is social media. I wrote a book and I get to talk to people about Jesus a lot so the natural way of thinking is a way that people can engage with your life and what you are doing and your work via social media. It's true. And it has been a gift to me in a lot of ways. It's been something that I've seen cool ministry connections in and through. But at the end of the day, when I think about what social media represents for my life, the benefits of not having social media far outweigh the benefits of having it so I deactivated all my social media. It was something that created yet another opportunity for me to have a healthy cycle of rest.  

Another example is when you have an open space on your calendar, leave it. You don’t have to fill it with work or productivity. One more example is don’t multitask when you’re running or walking. Protect that time and space to let your mind go blank or connect to God.

These are examples of intentionality, not self-appreciation. When you're seeking cycles of rest and there’s pushback, whether directly from friends, something is implied or feels inevitable, remember you have way more control over it than you give yourself credit for. You need to lean into it.

What is a good way for single parents to start helping their kids practice rest?

You model it. There's a quote that says how you live is your real and final truth. Not what ideas you believe. So as a parent, you have a lot of ideas about what is good. For your kids and for yourself. How you live is really what you believe. You can say all you want to about limited screen time for your kids and what they should be looking at and how they should be living, and what kind of person they should be connected to, but are you embodying any of those things? You may feel deeply convicted when you look at the reality of your own heart. What you embody is how you live. It goes back to what kind of intentional decisions you make.

Everyone has a version of something they can make an intentional decision to move toward. It will require an element of courage to do it.  

What are some practical things that listeners can do to start incorporating rest into their lives?

Making space to receive the thing that you're hopeful for. A lot of times you go before God with requests that you have for Him to do something in your life. You're saying you want to receive it, but your posture is closed off. Find one space, one sliver of time, even if it's just as you're falling asleep to simply say, “God, I am a receptacle to receive what only You can give me.” Praying a simple prayer, “God, I need the rest that you have.” Not numbing out, not distracting yourself, not allowing something to be in the way, but just simply opening yourself up to asking God for some rest that you don't know how to find yourself. There are lots of other things that you can do but start there.


Be intentional - we have to be, or it won't happen.  Rest won't take place if we are not intentional, and it needs to be substantial.  

Substantial. You have the ability to be intentional, but you need to make the time substantial.

Sustainable. Whatever you decide to do needs to be realistic. Start small, once a month, for example.

Reframing what we think of as rest. Rest isn’t just physical.


As we continue to hear and know what research says, children identify with both parents and who they are, how do you help navigate that within your child when the other parent is incarcerated?

Our children are both parents, but they're also themselves. They get to be autonomous. They get to begin to identify who they want to be and ask questions like What kind of person and what kind of character do I want to have? What kind of life choices am I going to make?

It could be an honest conversation with a lot of compassion about how your parent ended up being incarcerated. Those things don't apply to you. What do you want to learn from it? What can you do differently?

Tell your children, You are not a failure because your dad or your mom is incarcerated. Your parent who's incarcerated has a story, their life story that they grew up with that got them to the place that they are today. You, as a child, do not have that same story. Your parent may be incarcerated because he/she didn't have the advantage of seeing the negative effects of that behavior, which is now the advantage of your story.

The Light Phone -

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