Discipleship,  Life

Rest: The Anti-“Heart Killer”

Most of us know someone who wears a sleep tracker. Perhaps you are that someone.

Why do people wear them? As the name implies, these devices are worn to track our sleep. Or, in other words, the devices allow people to know how well they are resting.

The concept is based upon circadian rhythms. But rhythms and rest go far beyond our sleep. Sleep allows us to recharge after a day, but our bodies are meant for more rest than that.

Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight In Our Busy Lives, begins with these words:

                “In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm of work and rest.” (1)

Muller writes of the rhythm we find in nature (the seasons) and our days (with sleep). This book was written over 20 years ago, so Muller had no way to know that people would be wearing devices to help them track their days (and sleep) through the circadian rhythms.

But sleep is just one kind of rest. Sabbath is meant to be total rest. And yet, as Muller argues, it is based upon truly understanding the rhythm of life. In fact, his argument is that we have replaced the need for rest with action and accomplishment. We strive for more, yet we end up with less. (2)

As I have mentioned in my most recent posts, I am researching the idea of Sabbath, and doing so through the lens of my vision, my mission, my strategy, and my steps. I believe I am purposeful in what I do. If you have read this blog for years, you will know that a part of that purpose is to make the distinction between productivity and effectiveness. Productivity is the rage, but effectiveness is what is important.

But in our aim to be effective and/or productive, we take pride in our busyness. In fact, I used to say (with pride), “I will sleep when I am dead.” How arrogant. It is statements like that that will lead me to death sooner.

As I began Muller’s book this week, I must begin with the question, what is my aim? Well, my Vision Statement is: TO BE THE MAN GOD HAS CALLED ME TO BE.

If I wear myself out, is that possible?

He designed rest. I need rest. I need to be refreshed. For myself. For Him. In Him. And for others. When we are busy, others are squeezed from our lives. But God created us to be in community. Busyness kills community. Sure, we may be around others, but community goes far beyond around others; rather, true community requires being with others. Fully. Completely.

But before we can find true community, we need to truly find ourselves. And that begins with rest.

Why should we reconsider our need for rest?

Let me provide two quick reasons.

First, we all acknowledge a basic need for rest. At the most basic level, we all desire sleep. We may not get the sleep we need, and some may “stay up” for well more than a day, but eventually our need for sleep – our body’s and our personal desire for sleep – catches up with us. And so we sleep.

Second, God designed us for rest. Most of the world may not believe (or know) about the God who created the heavens and the earth. Therefore, they do not know that rest was God’s idea. It was God who first rested after creating all we can and cannot see. He did not need the rest, but He rested anyway. That rest is a model for us; it is a model for what should be. You may dislike the word Sabbath, but I encourage you to not forsake your need for rest over the choice of a word. Call it rest. Call it Sabbath. Call it whatever you like. Just take time (and make time) to get the rest you need.

And so, we need rest. We need to find a way to undo the busyness in our lives. Granted, if we are busy seven days per week (and I am), then taking a day for rest may seem to make the other days busier. But I know that when I am rested, I perform better. (I know that inherently, but am hearing it from so many who are busier than I am.)

Again, my aim is to become who God wants me to be. If I am made in God’s image (and I am, Genesis 1.27), and He took time to rest (and He did, Genesis 2.2-3), then it only makes sense that I should rest as well. And, while it is not my place to impose the idea of rest on others, the logic would say that you should find time to rest too.

As one final thought about our need to overcome our busyness and find time to rest, I leave you with one more idea I learned from Muller’s book this week. Busyness is a heart killer. Those are not his words. Those two words “heart” and “killer” are fused together in the Chinese pictograph which represents the word “busy.” (3)

I had never thought about it in quite that way before, but I can see that it is true. If I want life, if I want my heart to be free to live…if I want to be the man God has called me to be…I must find a way to rest. I must find a way to un-busy myself one day each week so I can go as hard as I need to go on the other six days.

I am beginning to think that as I incorporate the idea of Sabbath rest, I may still be busy on those other six days, but having rested, I will find myself more effective, if not more productive, and will therefore find myself with more opportunity to rest on other days as well.

Regardless of whether or not that happens, it is certainly worth exploring. Will you explore the idea of REST with me?

  • Muller, Wayne, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight In Our Busy Lives. New York: Bantom Books, 1999, 1.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid., 3.

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