“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Even for an adventurous soul, there is something special about returning home. “Home is where the heart is (Gaius Plinius Secundus).” This well-known saying captures something about the emotions we feel about home. The idea of home is a place of rest. Jesus’ invitation to the weary and burdened feels like an invitation to a spiritual home.
What is it about a home that allows us to rest? May I suggest that one of the reasons home brings us peace is owed to the fact that it is familiar? It is a place where you know the rules of engagement. It is a place where you can find things.
When I worked for an international mission agency, we had a counselor who would train our new missionaries as they prepared to move overseas. She taught us about what she called automobility. Automobility is your brain’s ability to automate various tasks in your life. Your brain is a calorie-saving machine. It is constantly trying to automate repeated activities so that you have more mental capacity to think about other things. If you have ever driven to work and suddenly realized that you don’t consciously remember going the familiar route, then you have experienced automobility.
Have you ever gone on vacation and returned home more tired than you started? There are physiological reasons for that. You eliminate many of your brain’s automated functions when you leave home. Things like locating the bathroom, finding your clothes, and getting to the grocery store are automated at home. Traveling demands more energy for your brain to process performing those same tasks. It requires a shocking amount of calorie burn to process such simple tasks. When you return from a vacation, you are likely more tired because of all that extra work.
So what does that mean for our spiritual lives? First, it may help you plan your travel more wisely. Plan for space to rest; you will need it. Give your travel companions extra grace; their brain is working on overload, which can be taxing on energy and emotions. One final thought I can offer is to learn to leverage your brain’s ability to automate tasks. Your brain’s ability to automate life is actually why spiritual practices work. When you arrange your life with repeated activities that point you to Jesus (spiritual practices), you are becoming more habitually righteous. Walking in the way of Jesus becomes increasingly a matter of habit rather than overcoming a weak will.
Read this quote from Henri Nouwen and take a moment to ask yourself what practices you can put into your life to help your soul be at home with God, even when traveling physically?
Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests’ – the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light. – Henri Nouwen