Yesterday was a “wasted” day. You know the kind of day that I mean? You wake up with ideas about all that you will accomplish; but, by bedtime, you have done none of them (but eat and maybe shower). The night before, I had goals. I planned to write, work on another project, and shop for someone’s birthday. But, alas, by midnight I had completed about 7% of my goals for the day. So, I went to bed feeling unaccomplished, and surprisingly, unrested.
One would think a day spent doing nothing productive would, by definition, be restful; but, it was the opposite. I spent emotional energy beating on my brain. “Get up! Work! You need to get stuff done. You are lazy. The hours are slipping by and you are a lump!” These motivational speeches did not motivate me to snap out of my hazy funk.
Avoiding work is not restful. Your mind is aware of what you need to do and it will not shut up about it. Looming projects rob us of rest, and we feel guilt when we squander time. Long after the clock struck midnight (and we were still awake), I told Eric, “You know that verse about sleep being sweet to someone who has worked hard? Yeah, my sleep tonight will not be sweet.”
Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:12, ESV)
Does Resting Matter All That Much?
The human body was not meant to work all the time with no rest.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3, ESV)
God rested? We hear it in church and read it in the Bible, but it seems odd to think of God resting. Especially when we consider Psalm 121:3-4, “He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Maybe it is not that God needs rest; in fact, He does not. But, He knew we would need rest. He knew our finite humanness was not made for constant movement. He modeled rest for His creation from the very beginning.
“But I do not have time to rest.” So often it seems we have no time to rest because our lives are overwhelmingly full. Not fulfilling… just full. Few of us get enough sleep, and when we do, is it even quality sleep? Yet, when we evaluate how we spend our time, we find a lot of it being sucked up by unnecessary tasks or entertainment. I am not against entertainment. If anything, I am too engrossed in entertainment on any given day. But, playing games on my phone for hours with the TV on in the background is not restful. It is fun. I look forward to it, but it is not rest. Thirty minutes of quiet instrumental music with my eyes closed would yield far more relaxation than three hours of screen time playing.
Entertainment is a false substitute for rest because we can numb out to the world, but an overabundance does not benefit our minds and bodies.
Eric’s Mid-Week Date
Long before there was an Eric and Heather, Eric used to set aside Wednesday nights to rest. He came home; put on soft, instrumental music; laid back on the couch; closed his eyes; and, rested. He stayed put until he felt rejuvenated. Sometimes it took 30 minutes; other times, it took several hours. But, every Wednesday evening like clockwork, Eric had a date with the couch. When people asked if he was free on Wednesday nights, he would respond that he had plans (plans for resting). Back then, he intentionally set aside time to rest, and he felt the benefits.
Had we instituted this mid-week (or Sunday, or Tuesday, or Friday) rest date into our marriage in the early days, we might have saved ourselves some exhaustion-related arguments and some unnecessary health issues.
Being Intentional about Rest
When time is not planned, it will get used by whatever task, squeaky wheel, or shiny object captures it. If we do not set aside time to intentionally rest, it will not happen. Time and money get spent if they are not budgeted.
- Where do you feel most at peace? “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock, The Use of Life
- Create an atmosphere in your home space (or wherever you plan to rest) which is conducive to rest. Peaceful art, clean floors and furniture, lovely fragrances, and calming sounds – it is difficult to rest well in clutter and chaos.
- What do you need to clear out of your life to make room for rest – mental, physical, and emotional rest? What is occupying your life right now which makes resting challenging or impossible?
- Can you rest with others in your space? Can you spread out on one couch and your partner on the other for mutual rest time? Soft music playing in the background, eyes closed, breathing deeply and deliberately. If you can make a date out of rejuvenation, go for it, but if you cannot let yourself relax when others are around, keep it private.
- How much time do you rest in God’s presence? “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” – Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
Many of our relationship problems have been the direct result of exhaustion. Rarely do Eric and I snap at each other or engage in illogical arguments when we are refreshed. As newlyweds, we would argue for hours at night only to find the situation did not seem so daunting after sleeping. Rest clears the mind and strengthens the body. Like gardens need sun, water, and weeding; humans need rest, proper diets, and exercise.
Prioritizing rest may seem counter-intuitive for couples as actively resting takes time away from more attractive activities such as going to dinner, dancing, or hanging with friends; but, even though taking a break may shave a few minutes off your time together, it can add a deeper quality to the time you do spend together.
So, think about taking a little extra time for rest and relaxation. If not for your own good, do it for your special someone.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3, ESV)
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8, ESV)
How could your relationship and quality of life improve if you intentionally prioritized rest each week?