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Rest for the Weary

“As soon as we are alone,...inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again...We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important.” -Henri Nouwen

This week if I had one word to describe how I'm feeling it would be: tired. Join the club right? Unfortunately most of us don't finish our weeks and say "Man, I feel rested and energized for the weekend..." We're usually hanging on by a thread, hoping we didn't schedule something for Saturday morning that requires us to do more than physically be present...

My roommate in college also happened to be my childhood best friend. We had a blast living together and often tried to figure out ways to enhance our living situation since it felt like we had won the lottery. One night he asked me "What's the worst decision we could make right now?" It was in the middle of the semester, midterms looming, late at night...so we left campus. I don't remember where we went but I remember being out really late and not doing so hot on my midterm the next day....We instituted a policy that semester that if the one of us asked that question, the other would have to answer it and whatever they answered we would do. It's no wonder we were often sick, sleep deprived and struggling to focus on anything...

We live in a culture that praises people who can seemingly accomplish so much with so little time. It’s more rare to find someone who is not on the go constantly. We have taken the Judeo-Christian principle of work being good (pre-fall, in the garden) and massaged it with some Puritan principles of striving for excellence to honor God, and finished it off with a dose of American 'must win' attitude. Unfortunately what we're left with is a cultural norm, rather than a biblical norm for work. It ends up not being work that glorifies God, but work that can slowly waste away our bodies and souls.

I fear we have let our encouragement toward one another be dominated by achievement. “How can you reach that next goal?” “How can you keep going even after you want to stop?” “How can I push you out of mediocrity and laziness?” All good questions and at times, the absolute right questions to be asking. I need to be challenged to push against my laziness or unwillingness to put my head down and grind out a difficult task I don’t want to do.

I've played soccer my whole life. I always dreaded the moment when inside I'd be thinking "If the leader of the soccer team says one more sprint I don't think I can do it" only to hear him yell out "FIVE MORE." But I made it. You know why I made it? Because everyone else around me was doing the same thing. I pushed myself because those around me pushed themselves. At that moment, that was the right decision - but how often am I making a worse decision by seeing everyone around me, running ragged, trying to accomplish more, filling their schedules with more - and I decide to keep running with them?

There's a principle in exercise science that our mind tells us we're done long before our body is actually done. Elite runners know how to turn this off and push until they reach the finish line. Have you ever seen those videos of people crossing the finish line at an IronMan when it looks like they have forgotten how legs work? Their bodies are shutting down basic functions because of how hard they have pushed themselves.

We experience the same phenomenon in our work. We push ourselves to turn off the red flags in our mind long before our body gives up so we think nothing is wrong: "I haven't seen my wife hardly at all this week" "I feel like I'm getting sick but I couldn't possibly cancel that breakfast" "If I can just get this last thing done maybe I won't stay late tomorrow..."

We need intentional rest. God rested from creating (Genesis 2:2 “...he rested from all his work.”) He created us to function within this same order.

We need to encourage those around us to intentionally rest. We need to be better advocates for those closest to us who cannot or do not know how to rest.

We need to stop making ‘the worst decision’ and learn to rest, even if those around us are not.

How can you encourage others to rest more intentionally? How can you help lead others into rest by the choices you make?