“What is without periods of rest will not endure.” —Ovid
Recently, I spent a few weeks on vacation. The time was filled with travel, reconnecting with family, playing golf, swimming, sleeping, and reading. As you can probably imagine, it was quite enjoyable. But more than that, it was desperately needed.
Consider the benefits that rest offers:
- a healthier body.
- more balance.
- less stress.
- deeper relationships.
- better opportunity to evaluate life’s direction.
- a new, fresh outlook.
- increased productivity.
Yet, despite all the proven benefits of rest, intentionally setting aside regular time for rest is a practice that has become undervalued and underappreciated in today’s culture. We have become overworked, overstressed, and exhausted. Yet, Sabbath (setting aside one day each week for rest) remains a dying practice that less and less people practice regularly (never mind the idea of actually taking a two-week vacation).
Overlooking the importance of rest is certainly not unique to our modern society. But our culture has made it increasingly difficult to take rest without specific intentionality.
Consider some of the factors prevalent in our modern society that argue against the idea of rest:
• Rest has become confused with laziness. We live in a society that praises those who work 60hrs/week and makes faulty assumptions about those who work 40. We have confused rest with laziness. And while too much rest may indeed be an indicator of sloth, the regular practice of finding rest is not.
• The desire for money has become unquenchable. Modern society loves money. We love it to a point that we will sacrifice much of ourselves to gain more of it. Some sacrifice morals, character, or family. Others consider rest a fair trade… and will gladly sacrifice it at the altar of the almighty dollar.
• Success is measured incorrectly. Similarly, we have begun to measure success by the amount of cash in savings, the size of our homes, or the model of our cars. The nicer one’s lot in life, the more successful they must be. Unfortunately, this is a faulty measure of success. The true test of success should be measured in significance rather than success. But often times finding significance requires us to rest long enough to recalibrate our lives around the things that matter most.
• We live in a world that is always “on”. While electricity may have made it easier to work late into the night, the Internet has surrounded us with opportunities and relationships 24 hours/day. Today’s world never stops. And when the possibility to make money every hour of the day is combined with the desire to do so, rest quickly gets pushed aside.
• A false sense of urgency surrounds us at every moment. We live in a world that floods our minds with so much information that it has become difficult to sort out the important from the unimportant. As a result, the urgent needs of the day crowd out the important. And rest puts up little fight against the urgent.
• Our minds require distraction. Our minds have become addicted to stimulation and validation. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to turn off E-mail, Facebook, or Twitter… not to mention cell phones, televisions, or the Internet. And when our minds begin to require distraction, rest becomes an increasingly difficult state to achieve.
• Rest cannot be rushed. Modern society loves shortcuts. We desire 15-minute abs, 30-minute meals, and 1-hour photos. Unfortunately, rest can never be rushed. It must be entered deliberately and allowed to complete its cycle in due time. By definition, this requires patience… and a cleared schedule.
• A misunderstanding that rest is purely physical. Rest is physical. But it is more than that. It is mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is an understanding that the world is going to survive without you. It is an inner strength that allows you to disconnect from accomplishing “work” and focus on yourself and those around you. It is not mere physical leisure. It is rest: body and soul.
I have worked hard to keep a day of rest as an important part of my life and weekly routine. But it is an upward battle that requires relentless intentionality—we live in a culture that has far too often underappreciated its value.