Rest: The Lost Art of Stopping

Recently I went on holiday with my wife and the in-laws to Norfolk. Unfortunately, whilst I was there I got pretty sick, and ended up spending a good few days in bed. Not an ideal holiday! When you’re lying in bed with very little to do, and with very little access to the Internet, you tend to do a lot of thinking and reflecting (or at least I did!) I couldn’t help but think, "Is this really resting? Because I sure feel tired".  

The world is an interesting place these days. People are becoming increasingly busy in pursuit of… what? Is it money? Is it professional fulfilment? Just feeling the pressure to keep up with their peers in the fullness of their calendar and social lives? Interestingly the famous economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that because of technological advances and productivity improvements we would now be on a 15-hour workweek. In his eyes the most desirable commodity was leisure time. (I am kind of onboard with his ideas to be honest.) Obviously though, this is not the case – we are nowhere near a 15 hour workweek, and most people are working 40-50 hours per week. We are not getting any less busy, in fact we’re getting busier, and this is the accepted norm.

I was at the National Youth Ministry Weekend exhibiting for SCM back in November. I met a bunch of tired youth workers who were “on retreat” – the weekend is meant to be a time for personal reflection, growth and, importantly, rest. But as the weekend drew on, and as they attended more and more seminars, you could clearly tell that these poor folks were almost certainly not resting. In their pursuit of growth and their desire to do the best for the young people they serve they themselves were burning out. The thing is, like many of us, they were useless at switching off, even when we do have time to rest.

How good are your boundaries? Do you have defined start and end points in your day? Can you happily do nothing and not feel guilty for doing so? Or do you always have a niggling feeling of approaching deadlines or needing to be productive in some way? It’s really important to learn to love your rest time, and realise that busyness and work are not THE most important things in life. With Christmas just around the corner, some enforced breaks will be inbound. My challenge to you is to do your best to switch off for a few days during your break. Turn off the emails, and tell yourself often that you don't need to do 'X' piece of work. If you know that this might cause you stress why not book these days in with yourself and make them immovable? Seize your Sabbath rest pals!

Sadly, when we are busy often the first thing we forget about is God. We forget that God is with us, and we forget to acknowledge Jesus 'in the room'. A whole day can fly past and there has not been a single point where we have stopped to bring God in to our work or our feelings. So, that is what I want you to talk away from this little ramble. Rest without guilt, and acknowledge God in the busyness of the day - it will help you get through.