“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
So often we live without hope.
We think something that has been one way our entire life means that we are destined to carry on that tradition until we die. There is this idea that once we experience a certain pattern of behavior or circumstances that it (or we) can never change. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and all that.
The truth is we’re believing a lie. It doesn’t have to be that way. Our lives can change. We can change. It is possible to no longer have to follow the ways of old. To break patterns that we’ve held and lived with for so long.
One such pattern is how we rest. Or don’t rest, as it were. We all live with an energy debt that we can’t seem to pay back. We’ve lived this way for years. Our debt keeps growing and growing every day and yet, we don’t seem to do anything about it. Like the Energizer™ bunny of old we just keep going, and going, and going. We know it’s not good for us. We know we need to stop. But we don’t. We can’t. Or, at least, we don’t think we can.
What the World Tells Us
Look around you. Is there anything in your world that is telling you that it’s okay for you to rest? All around us shouts the messages of “work harder” and “hustle.” Cities are alive twenty four hours a day. We even have a city with the nickname “The City That Never Sleeps.” Our society tells us that if we only have one job, if we don’t have something on the side then we’re doing it wrong. We have TV shows we can binge watch anytime we want to. We have devices that have almost been permanently grafted into our hands. We don’t even know what it’s like to be bored anymore.
We’ve got to stop looking to the world as our example. There is a different way of life. There is a way to find rest … for our bodies and for our souls.
If you can look past the haze of society you can see that what’s real is that we can find rest. The reality is that we can stop and catch our breath. It won’t be easy or convenient. If you’ve been living according to the ways of this world then I can guarantee you that it won’t feel natural at first. That’s okay. What’s important right now is knowing that it is possible to pay back the energy debt that we’ve incurred over the years; that you can put a plan in place to make that happen.
As you well know, paying back a debt takes time. You won’t do it all in one day. It’s going to take you a while to catch up. One weekend away will not pay back your debt. One week of vacation will not give you a surplus to live from right away.
What will work is consistent, intentionally chosen rest over a long period of time. Debt is hard to pay off but if you are consistent in not adding any new debt and in paying on time you will eventually pay it off … even if you only make the minimum payment. So it is with your energy debt. If you consistently give yourself rest when you need it, even when it interferes with what you’d rather be doing, you will see the benefits of a life no longer shackled by that debt down the road.
Previously on …
So what did we learn during this series? Here’s a quick refresher:
- Our problem is that we don’t know how to rest. We are finite creatures who only have a certain amount of energy before we need to rest and we constantly push that boundary. Doing more than we should. Going longer than we should. In doing so, over time, we have created an energy debt that seems insurmountable.
- Rest is the act of being refreshed. Of recovering. Of gaining energy. Rest is not(or doesn’t have to be) just sitting still. The trick is to finding (and doing) the things that you love doing and that give you energy. The hard part is staying away from all the things that are on your list that you have to get done. Rest is “I get to” not “I have to.”
- God knew we would need to rest so He went first and showed us the way. So now we rest because God rested. He knew we wouldn’t do it of our own volition, so He commanded that we do it. So now we rest as an act of obedience.
- Out of all of that, a new thought arises. What if we’ve gotten rest backwards? Is it possible that all this time we’ve worked from a place of energy deficiency, but it’s actually possible to have an energy surplus? What if we followed patterns of rest that allowed us to rest for the work we are going to do and not from the work we just did? We can build up a surplus of rest. It is possible.
- There are some ground rules to our rest. The first being that you can’t plan anything before you rest. You also need to schedule your rest – put it on your calendar now. If you don’t, you won’t. Lastly, if you have a spouse and/or kids, bring them along for the ride too. You can do things by yourself, and that’s important, but don’t leave out your family from enjoying rest with you.
- There are four ways that we can use to pay back our energy debt and eventually start to live from a surplus. In order of importance those are sleep, sabbath, vacation, and sabbatical. One can build upon the other. Without good sleep, taking a sabbatical won’t really help you. It’ll be nice to have some time away, but you’re not getting the most benefit from the sabbatical. Unless you’re burned out and need time off as a drastic measure to allow yourself to properly function, you should focus on making sure you’re getting the proper rest in the order above. Start with making sure you’re sleeping well (7-9 hours per night) and move on from there.
As we wrap up this series, my desire is that you would see for yourself, to know in your heart, that there is hope. I want you to believe that rest is possible. I want you to believe that we don’t have to live from a burned out state anymore.
A few last tidbits:
- There are many ways in which we can rest. I named four, but there are probably others. Take the time to find the ways that work for you.
- Make rest a priority. You have the time. You may not think that you do … but you do. It’s worth setting other things aside in order to make this work. You can’t keep going on the way that you have. Something has to give.
- Be intentional. Do this rest thing on purpose. Once you’ve set aside the time to rest then actually rest. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Have hope, my friends. We can pay back the energy debt we owe and live from an energy surplus. We can rest for the work we’re going to do as opposed to resting from the work we just did.
Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. I learned a lot writing this series and I hope you learned a lot in reading it. I’m in this with you. You are my allies. Together we can find the rest we need. All of our lives will be better for it.