About this time of year, eleven years ago, I wrote an article entitled, “Has Rest Become a Four Letter Word?” It was printed in the “In My Opinion” part of the Oregonian, and it was intriguing enough that I was soon interviewed on a radio station. “Rest” is something of an oddity in our culture.
Back then, we were moving our family back from The Netherlands, back from a way of life that was more cyclical. As I noted then, returning home to America felt like entering a perpetual hothouse. The heat is always on, and the lights never turn off. Missing was/is any sense of rhythm, ebb and flow, stop and go. “Off hours” was a foreign concept that is even more so today. In a recent book, “OVERconnected” William Davidow, a former Silicon Valley executive, writes about the hazards of overconnection and the web. He warns of the real threat that things can suddenly spin out of control. Culture can no longer keep pace with technology, no longer accommodate to the change. I realize it’s much scarier now then it was in 2000.
Eleven years ago, I wrote about an observed hurry, in which we have lost our bearings, our sense of proportion. “Unavailable” seems a word from the past, going the way of cursive writing. But of course, with the aid of technology, it is more severe. We have the capacity to always be on, and if we let technology and social networks continue to influence our lives, we might forget how to shut down. And all of this is leaving us rather thin. As D.T. Niles describes us—we are a culture in which we “gather impressions but have no experiences, collect acquaintances but have no friends.”
It wasn’t perfect in the 90’s in Holland, but it was sane. We did not initially appreciate the rhythm of stores closed in the evening, shopping areas vacant on Sundays, and the absence of “Lowest Price of the Season” on the windows. Save for a few stations on TV broadcasting Snooker or Dart championships, there was little to see on TV. We weren’t rushing home from church; meals were whole evening affairs; and a long walk along the North Sea was a regular and centering ritual.
When I wrote this article, my hope was that a reader might take notice, tell the world he/she refuses to be defined by consumerism—exercise a defiant “no” to the word “sale.” Above all, disconnect, take an occasionally fast from technology, and reflect. Get away from this hyper culture. Remember who you really are, restore eternity to the soul, live in kairos rather than be consumed by chronos, and seize the divine moment.
The irony is that eleven years later, it is I who needs to read and reread this most. Subtly, I have capitulated to much of the culture around me, its pace and even its values. Eleven years of being bi-vocational, really tri-vocational—directing a doctoral program, teaching at a masters level, and pastoring a church, has made rest—maybe not a four letter word—but an estranged one.
Amazingly, and I would like to think it is by God’s grace, life has not been that out of order. In a strange sort of way, the demands of pastoring an expat church were far more stressful. Seven years of learning to turn on and turn off prepared me for coming back home. I’ve just learned to do them in smaller, strategic segments. I still pause before going to Home Depot on Sunday to ask—can it wait? What has stayed with me is a warning from Peterson that hyperactivity is a form of sloth. We can be lazy at the center, refusing to do the real work of caring for the soul. I do not impress myself nor attempt to impress others with busyness and hurry (I hope not anyways). The invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 is one I need to embrace. Hopefully, it will define much of my upcoming break along the Pend Oreille River near Canada.
I think rest is becoming just as much of a discipline as anything else. I can generally sense when I need to unplug. (which is precisely what I did last weekend) If we don’t discipline ourselves to do this we run the risk of burning out.Science has not so much discovered as reiterated that A. Lack of sleep can actually have the same effect as alcohol intoxication. B. Typical efficiency per hours worked start to drop off at about 6.5 hours a day. I’m sure if we took a good look (Not sure if a study was done on this or not) that we’d find that folks who when taking a vacation who have to be on a leash/tether by cell phone, email, etc. probably don’t rest as well.
In short, rest is just as necessary and just as glorious to God as work.
Good word.On June 30, I unplugged from my job, ministry, email, Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere– for ten full days. I took my family to a small beach and we played. Swam. Surfed. Watched kid’s movies (no news).
It was completely refreshing…not just to my body, but mind and soul. I feel a little bit like an addict coming out of rehab. I’ve resisted the re-entry and am really trying to protect myself and my family from such hyperactivity. For the first time in a while, I have an abundance of complete thoughts! LOL
I’m learning that rest is not a second-classier of my time. Recreation is re-creation…
Thanks for posting!
*not a second-class use of my time..*Sorry!
Tim Keller has a great sermon titled Work and Rest. I am discussing it on my blog this week in the form of two articles. We are having trouble truly resting even when we try. Much of this is b/c we are trusting in our own accomplishments to fulfill us when it’s in Christ’s work that we find our meaning and value.
The photo says it all to me; I’m an avid kayaker, and will get away for a morning to one of several rivers in the North Shore of Boston to refresh my spirit; or I’ll mentor GCTS seminarians while paddling. Taking up kayaking has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself.
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Great common sense here. Wish I’d thouhgt of that.
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