I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to come up with an idea for today because I feel completely drained of energy. But then I realized I actually have accomplished a good bit today, which got me thinking about why. In a word: Rest.
Completely unexpectedly, I ended up with the day off today. I was actually ready for work, about to sit down with my husband for breakfast when I found out I didn’t need to go in. So, I ate something to settle my stomach (my stomach hates mornings and has for as long as I can remember, but once I eat, I’m usually fine), took a couple swigs of coffee and then went back to bed. It was kind of weird for me. It also really gave me time to just rest.
The day flew by since I stayed in bed until late morning, got up and did some things in the kitchen, laid down again for a while, did some more chores, and then sat down to write. But those few times I was up, I accomplished more than I have all week.
Why? And why am I telling you all this?
Well, I’m telling you this because I want to give you a good example of what happens when we rest (which is the why).
In the US, mainstream culture tends to worship busy. We try to juggle work, home, school, family, hobbies, time with friends, and church. We ask ourselves how do we balance those things, how do we prioritize, how do we fit more into the day. If I just had one more hour. If I could just get this thing to help save time. If I could just be more organized. But you know what gets pushed to the wayside? Rest.
Many cultures, including some within the US, encourage or even require a period of rest every day. It may not be very long, perhaps just an hour, but everyone knows that is a time of rest. They slow down. Shops close. People don’t wander the streets. There is a quiet moment. In our “highly evolved” Western mind, we tend to think this is beneath us. Or we blame it on the heat of the day, which is partially true but not universally. There are cold climates where the cultural norm is a lengthy period of rest in the afternoon. And there is a tendency in these cultures to value relationship over task. Which is another difficult thing for us to grasp.
One thing I would like to point out about cultures with an intentionality about rest is that they tend to have fewer chronic illnesses, lower rates of obesity, and smaller incidences of food allergies. I think there are a lot of reasons for those things; less processed food being one of them. But I fervently believe that a lot of it has to do with rest. And that’s not just based on experience.
I remember reading a couple articles several years back (I wish I still had access to them, but I believe it was through a student account I had when I was working on my master’s degree). These articles all discussed rest and the consistent theme among them was that the human body needs rest. In fact, the ideal interval for an entire day of rest was once every seven days. They specified that what rest means to each person may be different, for example, some find it very calming to go mow the lawn while others find that to be a dreadful task. But across the board, people did better if they took that day of rest once a week.
As believers who are not under the Law of Moses, we are not commanded to keep a day of rest any longer. That day of rest was meant as an opportunity to set aside an entire day to focus on God and His attributes, and God knew the best way to do that was to take a break from work. We do still set aside a day of worship, but that day tends to be just as busy (if not more so) than every other day in the week. We may call it a day of rest, but usually it is far from restful, especially for those actively engaging in ministry on Sunday.
While we are not under the Law and the command to keep a day of rest is not repeated for us in the New Testament, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea. Many of the Old Testament commands are no longer requirements for us yet they did have health benefits beyond the setting aside of a special people chosen by God. For example, many of the dietary laws point us toward a rather healthy lifestyle. God isn’t frivolous with His Word. Ever. We are not commanded to keep a day of rest, but when we do, we often find we are healthier, more joyful, and more productive.
This is counterintuitive. Surely if I push myself to the absolute limit then I will be more productive?! Well, no. Actually, you aren’t. My husband recently finished college, so studying for exams is fresh on my mind. I’ve read so many study tips (both of the Pinterest persuasion and the scientific kind) that I won’t bore you with details. I will sum them up with this though: Your brain and body need a break now and then.
When you pull an all nighter to study, you are actually less able to remember what you studied and less able to make connections which will allow you to hold those facts in your long term memory. Long shifts of study or work result in your brain functioning as if you were drunk. And the longer you go without a break, the more likely you are to have a compromised immune system. Not only does your body need sleep, it needs down time. This is especially true when you are going through or have recently gone through a very stressful situation.
I understand being concerned with whether you are being lazy or not. I honestly have felt incredibly lazy today because what I have accomplished today has been bracketed by extended periods of down time. We need to break ourselves of this, though. It’s hard to admit we need rest; it’s hard to accept down time. But when we do, we are more useful, more able to get things done, and more likely to have a good attitude about work. Work is a gift, not a curse. God designed us to work; work existed in the garden of Eden. But so did rest. Rest is also God given; it is a gift. We need to recognize it is part of our DNA and take time to slow down and hit the reset button.
I haven’t had much of a weekend for almost a month, and I have to say I was really feeling it the last two days at work. I wasn’t even all the grumpy; I just could barely keep my eyes open. So when I found out I didn’t need to work today, I was relieved. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work; I like my job. I just knew I haven’t been doing my usual best this week because I am so tired. I feel like I haven’t had much energy today, but as I look around, I see that I have gotten done things I couldn’t have done until I got some rest.