I’ve been thinking a lot about rest lately. I’m not very intentional about taking time to rest - I sort of wait until the last minute or when I’m hanging on with one finger, running at 10% battery, about to fall over. And then when I do finally take time to rest, I’m not intentional about what that rest time should entail, and then when it’s over, it’s not long until I need it again.
It got me thinking: Am I resting wrong? How can I ensure that time spent resting leaves me...well... rested?
I’d like to propose four principles to getting true rest, in a handy acronym called REST.
R - REFRESH
In order to actually rest, we need to engage with something that refreshes us. A nap. A walk along the beach. A nice cup of tea and a good book or crossword puzzle while snuggled under a blanket. A lunch date with a friend. Whatever it is for you - do something that fills you up, that replenishes you.
Sometimes work can be refreshing in itself. There are aspects of my ministry vocation that I find refreshing (like writing this blog, or composing a message or artistic expression), and that’s an added bonus of having a career you’re passionate about. But I think it is still important for us to take a break from our work to do something different, no matter how life-giving our vocations may be.
E - ELIMINATE
This might be the most challenging one to do, but we need to eliminate technology from our times of rest. I know, I know. And this coming from a movie-fan who watches movies as often as he breathes oxygen. I’m not saying we shouldn’t watch movies or The Great British Baking Show or All Creatures Great And Small or Whatever-It-Is-You’re-Binge-Watching-These-Days. I think times of taking in creativity and artistic expressions in a visual form are actually refreshing. But perhaps we need to make time in our resting for no screen time.
One of the best things to eliminate is social media. I’m surprised at how quickly 15 minutes can go by while I check my Instagram feed, and then 20 minutes, and then it’s been 35 minutes and I’m watching a third “Best of Graham Norton” on Facebook. I’m also surprised at how, when I eliminate social media from my life, I rarely miss it.
I’ve recently instilled a new policy for myself, which is that I am not allowed to go to bed with my phone. It stays in the living room (or the kitchen - usually the kitchen, in the bread box for some reason) when I retire for the night, and I can only look at it when I’m awake the next morning and out of bed. Sometimes I see how long I can go before checking it. I’m only a few days into this practice, but it’s been really helpful so far. I’ll let you know how it progresses.
S - SABBATH
Perhaps the most important principle to resting properly is to make it a Sabbath. I didn’t come up with this one - this principle is straight from the Lord Himself, and is so important it made it into His 10 Commandments.
We need to set aside some time to read His words, to listen for His voice, to write out our thoughts and concerns, to talk with Him. This doesn’t have to be long. And there aren’t any specific rules about what this time should look like. The only rule is that it must happen, and it must be time focused on Him. If we are empty, let Him fill us up. If we are weary, let us give Him our troubles for His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
This is a two-for-one in that it both takes time to rest properly, and we need to make time to rest. What I mean by this is that we can’t rush resting. I’m about 5 years behind on sleep, so I can’t expect to schedule a nap here and there and be fully recovered. Sometimes we are so busy and so wound up and so preoccupied, and we’ve been operating this way for so long, that it takes a few days of rest to actually wind us down to a place where we can begin to start refueling. So don’t rush the process. Don’t expect to be rested after one or two times of intentional rest. Commit to this as a long-term practice of healing and wholeness.
Additionally, rest is not going to come if we don’t make time for it, if we don’t make it a priority. There are a million things vying for our attention all the time, and we will always have something that comes up. We need to intentionally schedule times to rest - and I don’t just mean vacation once or twice a year. I mean making it a habit. We need to schedule time every week - every day even, if that’s what it takes - to do something refreshing, to eliminate the noise from our life, and to focus on God.
So open up your calendar right now - I dare you - and put in some dedicated time to REST.