Eliot Kern reflects on biting his fingernails, a honeymoon in Fiji, and where we can find true rest for our souls.

I started biting my fingernails around 2010. For over a decade I tried everything I could think of to stop. The impulse overpowered ‘stop and grow’ liquids and constant reminders from my family.

It was a bad habit, but surely unrelated to anxiety or anything important. After all, it outlasted all sorts of life stages. I bit my nails, but I wasn’t a nail-biter.

Then my wife and I boarded a plane to Fiji for our honeymoon.

After a few days, I noticed the beginnings of whites on the end of each nail. I proudly displayed them to my wife and sent photos to my family. I was cured!

Back home, I lasted maybe an entire week before relapsing.

We talk about ‘the water we swim in’ – elements of our environment that we take for granted. Here, it took literally swimming in beautiful Fijian water to recognise the daily anxiety I experienced.

In my defence, I’ve always lived in Sydney, where everything is loud and fast and overscheduled. It’s easy to feel restless and burdened.

But I’ve also always been a Christian. In many respects, Christianity is quiet and slow, with personal connection to a sympathetic God.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened … and you will find rest for your souls.”

So why did my honeymoon give me rest in a way that my faith seemingly hasn’t?

Flying to Fiji, we left Sydney behind. Our only baggage was a couple of (comically overpacked) suitcases.

But in my spiritual life, I carry a lot of baggage I could really do without. Sometimes I cling to my burdens.

The more I know Jesus, the more I find rest in him.

One day, I think I’ll trust him enough to leave my fingernails alone.