So the People Rested

So the people rested on the seventh day.

Exodus 16:30

This is one of the most basic concepts ever. Work six days, rest on the seventh. Our forefathers got this concept. So why do I have so much trouble?

Before I get into my difficulties and such, I should determine whether or not this concept applies to me. In Jesus’ teachings, He mentioned that the Sabbath (day of rest) was created for man and not man for the Sabbath. So His application of the day of rest was universal. However, there is at least one other verse that says Jesus is the Sabbath of Christians. I’m going to go out on a limb and assert that the Sabbath spoken of in that verse is a spiritual Sabbath, à la Jesus’ statement that the weary and heavy laden who came to Him would be given rest (the whole point of the Sabbath) by Him. Carry-over applicability? Check.

That said, I’ve noticed that I run into one of two problems with this concept. First, I run into the “must finish x” mentality. This is the mindset—I’m sure others are familiar with it—that says I must finish task x before I can rest. The reality is that the majority of tasks x will be just as finished if I take a day and relax. Sometimes, I’ve read, task x will be completed better if I’ve rested and gained some perspective—fresh, well-seasoned perspective.  Second, I run into the “rest is good” mentality. This is not to be confused with the “rest is good” mentality which just recognizes that it’s good to take a rest. The “rest is good” mentality precludes getting back to work. This is the mentality that makes getting out of bed with my alarm a chore; that (usually) makes going back to work after the weekend difficult; that, in brief, is the source of all laziness.

How to combat this Scylla and Charybdis of burnout and laziness? The answer was buried in some of my commentary on the first: perspective. I need to get some detachment and evaluate the situation with the following questions.

1. What has preceded this?

If I’ve been resting then it’s probably time to get my posterior in gear and get to work. If I’ve been working like a mad man then it may very well be time to stop, breathe, and let the mental static that builds up dissipate. I’m no good to anyone or anything if I’m overworked, but I’m equally useless if I don’t do anything. It’s the healthy balance that’s needed.

2. Does this task want doing or need doing?

There are tasks that can wait and things that can only be done right this moment. Washing the car? It can wait. Playing with my daughter? Must be done now. Washing dishes? Depends on the dishes, but some dishes need to be done now since there’s a baby in my house and she’s still taking bottles. This is a matter of priorities. I will get done what is important and let the things that are unimportant fall by the wayside, to be swept up when time and energy permit. If something needs to be done, then it needs to be done and there’s nothing for it but to do it. If something wants doing, then it may be able to wait.

 

Part of the reason for the Sabbath; the day of rest is to help me gain the perspective I need; to take time to remember God’s goodness in my life; and to reestablish priorities that may have gotten out of whack during the madness that is life on all days I’m not resting. Plus, as an added bonus, there have been studies done that show that machines given a work:rest time ratio of roughly 6:1 last longer and need fewer repairs. My body is a biological machine; a vehicle designed to allow my soul to interact with other souls piloting their vehicles around. If I give that machine the proper work:rest ratio then I can expect it to last as long as it was designed to; run as close to peak performance as it can; and need fewer trips to the maintenance shed (not a fan of doctor visits, even though mine is a riot).

For a healthy work:rest balance, I will borrow from a rather wise animated character.

“[Y]ou know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective.”

I’ll have what he’s having.

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