An example seems in order to start this conversation. So I'll start with common ground.
Exercise is hard.
My alarm goes off an hour earlier than usual, my eyes open to a night-dark 6am, it's cold out and I had a long night out at an event the night before.
The only reasonable response to such a ludicrous scenario is to reset my alarm, and get some much deserved shut-eye. I'll exercise tomorrow.
In the short term I won't feel many of the consequences (and I'll certainly appreciate the extra sleep), but in the long term if I keep making that choice day by day... The natural results of that choice will show up. In the form of an extra-svelte figure. Oh wait...
You might be familiar with my story above, or you might come at it from a different angle.
"I can't afford a gym membership."
"If I did get to a gym, I don't want to look like an idiot"
"I think I might be getting sick" (everyday)
"I don't have time"
"Everything within me doesn't want to to do it."
But we're not talking about exercise here, and I'm not here to make you feel guilty about not exercising this morning. We're talking about rest. So let's draw some wisdom and move on.
The things that we know will be good for us, are so often the things that we resist because they challenge us at a fundamental level, and quite simply, cost us something. They require us to change things about ourselves that go far deeper than just activities, they change who we are. Ironically, we're often more creative to find ways to not do the things we know are good for us, than we are to them.
A little over a year ago, Kelsee and I had just come off of (what was then) the busiest summer of our lives. Between weddings and camps, our calendar was overflowing in different directions. Neither of us could seem to find time to catch our breath. We kept telling ourselves, "it's just 'til ____." But even when the chaos of summer slowed down, I realized that I didn't know how. Slowing down at the time meant being out 5 nights a week and starting graduate school. I knew that I needed to figure out what rest looked like. I knew it was the thing that I desired most. But even with that knowledge, when I moved past the idea of rest sounding good, and I actually tried, I met resistance.
It was like exercise. It was like a foreign language. It was like being allergic; physically and philosophically opposed to engaging in rest. I felt lazy, self-loathing, indulgent and I didn't even know what to do. It felt like there was not an activity on earth that could assuage me. It was frustrating. I was riddled with anxiety, and ended up most "rest" days disappointed and depressed. At the end of all my pursuits and "relaxing activities," I was no better off than I was before.
What does any rational person do when you feel like that? Watch Netflix! Play video games! Work more, buy more, eat more, Escape.
Of course, we know that escapism only complicates and layers the problem. I knew that rest was good for me. I knew I needed to do it, but I met resistance. Have you experienced the same? What resistance do you face? Maybe it sounds something like this?
"Aren't busy people the ones changing the world?" (Busy=Important)
"When I rest, I feel lazy"
"If you're not busy, someone might be able to ask something of you"
a.k.a. "Stay busy to prevent getting busier." and "Rest is not a legitimate activity"
"If I rest, then I can't talk about how busy I am."
"I'll never be able to finish all I have to do in time"
Fill in the __________________
Where does your resistance toward rest lie?
REST IS LIKE EXERCISE
You get where I'm going with this? When we want to produce a change in our lives, like exercise or rest, we encounter personal resistance. Even though the activity we want to do is good, there seems to be a thousand reasons to put it off.
If we get past all that and actually do it, at first it can be frustrating, awkward and unnatural. When we know that something is good for us, we need perseverance and a firm belief that the change we're making is actually worth it. We need discipline to practice something that feels foreign and strange. For today the point is that, in this case, we experience resistance because it's worth it. We're on to something.
Who would've thought we would find ourselves saying, "rest is like exercise?"
Let's get to work. (whoops! err. rest.)
We'll take some time to define rest. What is healthy rest? Is there unhealthy, or less healthy rest? Is it different for different people?
In fact, leave a comment here if you have a question after reading this, and we'll see if we can't address the majority in the next few posts!