Buried in the collective mindset of Western culture and deep within our own hearts is the notion that rest is not an activity for the movers and shakers of this world. Rest is not for the vibrant and passionate, but for the decrepit who live in “rest homes” and for the dead who we encourage to “rest in peace.”
Still, we all can attest to a very real need for rest. It bears down upon us with a crushing force. So we flirt with rest. Entertainment and escape top the list. Entertainment (TV, movies, sporting events, digital gadgets, etc.) is a part of rest, when enjoyed in moderation. Too often, however, it’s the sole beneficiary of our attention. In excessive doses, these activities do not refresh, recharge or refuel.
Escape is another thing. There is a darkness to escape. These activities are often done in secret and we become caught in their grip. In the end they leave us empty and reeling, often unraveling all we hold dear.
Why do entertainment and escape get the best of our attention? Because we do not have a theology of rest so we fall back on the definition of rest sculpted and crafted by the world, a definition focused on entertainment and escape.
What is your definition of rest? Have you ever spent time thinking that through?
If we dig a little deeper, what factors influence your definition of rest?
There are eight heavy hitters. We’re going to take a look at six today:
- The Puritan Work Ethic America was founded on a value of work chiseled into the core of our being. Hard work and delayed rewards built a strong, growing economy. This value of work is seen in our ideas concerning vacation. Many Americans are excited about getting away for a long weekend. Many Europeans on the other hand, value vacations lasting two, three, four weeks in length. Different mindsets. Different values.
- Home Life Did your parents place a high value on work and accomplishment? Or did they have a more relaxed approach to life? There’s a good chance their values rubbed off on you. More is caught than taught. There’s a good chance, too, that if your parents valued hard work, your sense of self-esteem might hinge on your sense of accomplishment. Is that you?
- Your Personality We are wired from birth—fearfully and wonderfully made. Are you known more (not exclusively) for being “responsible and organized” or “fun-loving, relaxed or imaginative?” Both tendencies have unique gifts to offer the world of work and rest. You have a natural bent. Understanding that bent and the deeply held convictions it breeds is important work on the journey to rest.
- The Church The church teaches us to love, serve, forgive, tithe, and pray, but have you ever been taught how to rest? Rest well? It’s an area where the church falls painfully short. Rest is not valued, prioritized or modeled by our leaders and mentors. Few take the road less traveled.
- Our Disregard and Contempt for Limits Mindy Caliguire, founder of Soul Care, reminds us that our “refusal to live within our ‘God-designed’ limits is the root of many evils in our lives.” Here’s my favorite quote from her.
Do I frequently desire to be more than I am? My calendar reveals this issue in my life. When scheduling I’m not always realistic about the limits of my time or energy. And as a result, my ‘masked’ self (super-human self), who does not want to disappoint others or wishes to appear more capable, says “yes” to too many things. My ‘masked’ self has agreed to something my real self cannot sustain. As hard as it is for me to face, this kind of refusal to live within my ‘God-designed’ limits is the root of many evils in my life (creating for me a life that is) unmanageable at a level far deeper than the appearance of my closets.
Amen to that truth. We have to ask ourselves, “Do I consider my need for rest and replenishment a design flaw?” It’s one of the most important questions I’ve had to ask myself and I’ve had to ask it more than once.
- The Myth of a Calmer Tomorrow We’ve all said it. We all believe it. “I’ll take a break when . . . this project wraps up . . . when the kids are back in school . . . when summer comes . . . when summer is over . . .” We try to convince ourselves that the end of “this madness, this relentless pace” is in sight. But that hope forever lingers on the horizon, eternally out of our grasp.
Rest. A definition I’ve come to live by is very simple. Rest is doing that which refreshes. This idea was planted by God in my heart through Moses in Exodus 23:12 (NIV). It resonates deep within.
What is your definition of rest? What does rest look like in your life?
What roadblocks stand in your way? External realities play a role (no doubt!), but how often are we hindered by internal beliefs and baggage that stand in the way?
Were you able to carve out time this past week to do something that delights you?
Will you commit to doing something this week that will refresh you—10, 20, 30 minutes worth? Anything. Something refreshing.
You won’t be disappointed.
Note: This post is part of our original series on rest. We are re-posting some of our favorite articles because we believe they’re just as important today as ever. We hope you’re challenged to think of rest in a fresh new way. Would you like to read the post that preceded this one? Click here.