A pang of remorse struck my heart one Sunday morning. I felt like the priest or Levite who passed by the man who fell into the hands of robbers in the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. The cause of my remorse was a gentleman arriving at church in between morning worship services. He asked if I had a minute. I thought, “No! I don’t. I have a worship service to get to.” My initial internal response was to “pass by on the other side”. I’m so glad I didn’t.
Sometimes there is a blessing in doing more. For many, however, less may be more. Everyone seems so busy.
Busy! It is that time of year, but then, isn’t it always? We live in a work-driven society struggling with time-management issues. How do we balance time with friends and work? How do we study (adequately) and still workout at the gym? And how, as people of faith, do we make time to pray, read the Bible, share our faith, participate in small groups, and engage in ministries to others? Does it matter to our faith, families and friends how we spend our time? Is it possible for everything to become trivial and inconvenient because we are too busy with a thousand other commitments?
Instead of a life filled with the satisfaction of endless accomplishments, far too much of this generation is characterized by chronic exhaustion, absent workaholic parents and kids who have been not-so-subtly taught that the only way to earn the attention and love of others is with grades, paychecks or championships. But our value is not determined by what we produce.
Learning to work hard is great—but working hard is not enough to have a balanced life. You must also learn how to stop working. That’s called rest. The ancient Hebrews called it taking a Sabbath.
Jewish rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote, “In defense of the Sabbath, Philo, the spokesman of the Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria, says: ‘On this day we are commanded to abstain from all work, not because the law inculcates slackness … its object is rather to give man relaxation from continuous and unending toil and by refreshing their bodies with a regularly calculated system of remissions to send them out renewed to their old activities.”
If you refuse to rest, it will catch up to you, which means rest is not an option—you will rest. It will either be something you learn to do on your own or something you learn through a heart attack or some kind of emotional breakdown. I think most of us would prefer choosing the scenario rather than just letting it happen dramatically.
You need to catch the early signals of rest deprivation if you are going to learn how to establish a good work/rest rhythm. They are things like: mental fatigue (having difficulty concentrating or trouble thinking flexibly), irritability (you’re noticeably more defensive, argumentative or angry), anxiety (feeling of restlessness, insecurity or a general sense of worthlessness), apathy (the “blahs,” you just don’t care anymore, nothing seems interesting or fun) or just plain old exhaustion (you fall asleep sitting at your desk.
We need to learn to rest. But what “works” as rest is a very individual question. Things affect people differently. What feels like rest to you might feel like work to another. Everyone has their own definition of too much, too little or just enough.
Just remember rest is a place of renewal. It happens when we choose to forget our problems and all the stuff life jams down our throats and we remember who we are and remember why it is we do what we do. Begin this year committed to minimizing those activities that drain you of life (desolation) in order to spend as much time as possible participating in actions that invigorates your life (consolation). We cannot avoid everything contentious, but they can be minimized.
Ecclesiastes 3 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal”. There is also a famous saying: “A year from now you will wish you had started today.”
What is it time to do? Is it time to do less better, not just less in the same mediocre dutiful way characterized by the past?