First of all, an apology. On Friday, I said in this space that I had a “doozy” of a post that I would be putting up the next day. I still plan to write it up (I’m shooting for tomorrow, August 10), but obviously, it didn’t happen Saturday, and I am sorry for not keeping my promise. (This may seem a little melodramatic to some, but I take that whole “be a man of my word” business seriously. Probably because my dad didn’t. Enough of the Freud; back to the column.)
So what was I doing Saturday — and Sunday, for that matter — when I wasn’t writing a blog entry? Well, mostly I was resting. Or learning how to rest, anyway.
Resting, to put it bluntly, doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a Type A personality. I’m naturally hyperactive. I tend to base a lot of my self-worth on what I can achieve. It’s very hard for me to step out of that mindset and just be. So even my “relaxation” times tend to be full of activity — playing a game online, or working on some silly project, or whatever. Not necessarily restful.
This wasn’t such a problem when I was 25. I am no longer 25; I’m 40. I’m no longer 150 pounds either — in fact, I’d have to work to get down to 250. And I have a son with Leigh’s disease, who needs dawn-to-dusk care and attention seven days a week, every week of the year. (One of the oft-missed facts about life with a severely disabled child: unless you’re rich enough to have full-time in-home care for them, you never get a full day off.) The combination of all this is that I spend a surprising amount of my time being really tired. So I need that rest like I’ve never needed it before.
Which means I need to learn to rest like I’ve never needed to before. Because rest is an important spiritual weapon.
I know, you probably don’t think of rest as being a spiritual weapon along the lines of the word of God or the other stuff listed in Ephesians 6. Well, I don’t know that the passage in Ephesians was ever supposed to be a comprehensive list of every tool God can offer us to stand against Satan. Regardless, I have found that resting can be a powerful weapon against the world, the flesh and the devil, one that I need to be trained in further if I am to be all my Lord wants me to be.
Against the world, rest turns away that which can steal from us. Especially in this Age of Information, when the amount of reporting and analysis has far exceeded the amount of things being reported and analyzed, we are bombarded with so much stuff that (if we let it) can steal our time, our energy, our peace of mind, our focus on and faith in Jesus. And it’s only when we step away from it, let go of all that activity and all that input, that we realize how much it’s taking from us. When we rest, all that we have been giving to that stuff is conserved for another time, another day.
Against the flesh, rest allows us to cultivate contentment. The Apostle Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:7). Contentment adds to us because none of the things we strive for out of discontent will last anyway; they’ll all be left behind when we die. And meanwhile, that striving costs us all the things I mentioned in the last paragraph — all for the sake of a quick thrill or a temporary comfort. Instead of transitory pleasures, rest allows us to gain by not losing, to patch the worn spots caused by our busyness.
Against the devil, rest helps us to let God work His will in our lives. Too often, we give God’s enemies easy shots at us by getting in His way, or by doing things that take us out of His will. Letting God be God is not hard — I don’t think it’s even possible to prevent it. But letting God be God in us can be hard. It requires constant and repeated surrender, giving up our plans and our concepts of what is necessary for His. But the more we do it, the more we train ourselves to trust rather than control. It is a Lord’s job to control; it is a subject’s job to trust the Lord. And when we are in His will, the devil can do nothing except what He allows for our benefit.
Like practicing with any other weapon, the more we practice and are taught to rest, the greater skill we gain at it. The greater the skill, the easier the practice and learning become, and so on in an upward spiral. I haven’t achieved much facility with rest yet — as I said before, it tends to go against my natural bent. That doesn’t mean my natural bent is the right way to go; it just means I need to practice more, the same way a naturally slow athlete needs to work harder than a naturally fast one. So I’m working at it.
And I’m starting to see a smidgen of fruit from it. Most of Saturday, I did very little of importance … but was still awfully busy, so I realized I was on the wrong track. Sunday, I cut out most of my computer usage, and almost everything else that either didn’t need to be accomplished (at all, ever) or that could at least be put off. I relaxed, did a lot of reading, generally conserved my energy and did what I could to get a full night’s sleep (i.e., I was in bed with the lights off by 10:00 p.m.). In short, I had on Sunday what few American Christians had: a day of rest. (Quite a concept, huh? Y’know, God should have written into the Bible a provision for a day of rest coinciding with the main day of worship. Oh, wait …)
And today, Monday, I not only managed to get done all of the things I’d put off over the weekend, but (aided by a nice pot of Earl Grey tea) I still have energy well into the evening to spend with my wife and kids. First time in a while, too. I’m a little bit peaked (hey, it was only one day, and I’ve been dragging for months), but it’s sure a darn sight improvement over the shape I’ve been in most evenings lately.
Yeah, I think I need to keep practicing. Type A or no Type A, rest is too useful a weapon for me to not learn it.