Aug 132017 2 Responses

Getting Rest: How We Get It Wrong

For the most part, we live in denial about rest. We overestimate our abilities and underestimate our needs. While cognitively we might know we need rest, emotionally we deny the cost of never slowing down and finding ways to rejuvenate.

Yet if we step out of that denial and actually beginning to walk toward a more restful existence, our first steps are almost always wrong. The great mistake we make is one of arrogance. It’s not intentional pride, but a pride based on foolish ignorance. We do not naturally know what rejuvenates us and what doesn’t. With an amazing consistency, the first things we choose to stop doing in the name of rest are the last things we need to stop doing. Oftentimes, the actions we stop are actually activities which could give us rest and rejuvenation. For a good number of people, their first attempts at rest actually leave them more exhausted.

I see it all the time:

A mom and dad recognize the need for the family to spend more time together in order to connect with each other and to rest from the demands of life. Their first steps in this venture aren’t to cut down on the number of extra-curricular activities for the children or to skip a ball game. It is to go to the lake on Sunday. In the name of spending more time with family, they skip corporate worship with their church. While this might be effective when it happens once, the consistent deprioritization of corporate worship drains the family spiritually and teaches the children that worship is something you do when convenient. The long-term effect of skipping corporate worship robs the family of spiritual energy which brings rejuvenation.

An overworked employee can’t take on another responsbility. Recognizing their weariness, they seek to cut back their schedule. The easiest thing to cut is volunteering with kids. They figure they can use that night to get some sleep or catch up with friends. While it’s wise to cut back their schedule, stepping back from serving others will not provide the employee with more rest. Instead, it will rob the employee of the one time a week in which he is giving of himself with no expectation of return. Service often fills us more than it drains us.

For many, the busiest season of their marriage is when their kids are teenagers. With a multitude of activities and everyone running different directions, a couple will often desire a way to spend more time together. The easiest thing to cut out is their weekly small group where they meet, eat, and talk with other couples. Pulling out of the group gives them an extra hour a week, but it takes from them the emotional support of others, the reminder that life is about more than them, and the opportunity to help support other people.

In many cases, our first instinct regarding our schedules is wrong. While we are wise to cut things from our weekly demands, the things we choose to cut are often the wrong things. Worship, service, and community do demand things from us–especially time–but in most cases, they give far more than they take. Yet our natural response is to cut these things first. Instead, we should guard these moments.

If these aren’t the areas we should cut, what are the first things a person should consider regarding how to experience rest?

Begin the day with an intentional time of quiet reflection. It may not be the actual start of your day. For many young parents, the day begins when a four-year-old jolts them awake much earlier than desired. But at some point early in the day, steal five or ten minutes to quietly reflect on what lies before you. Recognize that which is bigger than you. Consider the opportunities the day holds. Make a plan about how best to accomplish what you desire.

Reject filling every second with sight and sound. While I’m not anti-social media, I think we make a great mistake in allowing it to be our go-to activity in what used to be the quiet times of life–driving, using the restroom, waiting, etc. What if you stopped naturally pulling out your phone every time there was a break and instead allowed your mind to process and think. This doesn’t mean you never use social media, but what about actually using the restroom without being on Facebook.

Create time to connect with others and yourself. When seeking rest, we often pick the wrong things to stop doing, but with a little discernment, we can make better decisions. What is one thing you can refuse to do this week in order to spend time with your family? What is one change you can make so that you have a chance to clear your head? I know it’s important to be a good teammate, but every now and then my child needs to skip a game because our family needs time together. While meetings are important, on occasion it’s good to skip a business lunch in order to take the time to get a walk in the park by yourself so that you can reflect on how the week is going.

End your day with gratitude. Just as your day should begin with quiet reflection, as you drift off to sleep look back over the day with a sense of thankfulness. Obviously, no day is perfect, but most days have aspects in which we can feel gratitude. Worst case scenario, just thank God that the day is over and if he allows you will have another chance tomorrow.

If you are thinking about taking specific steps to get more rest, I applaud you for moving out of denial and into reality. But be careful. Many times, our first thoughts are not our best thoughts. Steer clear of the common temptation to stop worshipping, serving, and connecting all the in the name of rest. Instead, discern better choices which will truly rejuvenate your heart and soul.




2 Responses to Getting Rest: How We Get It Wrong

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.