Give It a Rest: Carve Out Time to Recharge on a Regular Basis

December 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm Leave a comment

“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.”
― Mark Buchanan

rest areaEvery one of us needs down time. Human beings weren’t designed to work or be productive 24 hours 7 days a week. Just as your muscles need rest and repair after a rigorous workout, your mind, body and spirit routinely need time for renewal, too.

People have been encouraged to take regular periods set aside for rest and worship as far back as written history has been documented. In the Old Testament (Exodus 20: 8), God commanded that the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, is to be observed as a day of rest in remembrance that, after six days of creation, God rested on the seventh day. Even now, Sabbath is honored by some Jews as Shabbat (the most holy day on the Jewish calendar), sundown Friday to sundown Saturday each week, and by some Christians on Sunday, not only for ceasing labor but as a way to attend more fully to the spiritual aspects of life.

Sabbath is not merely a religious concept. As claimed by Walter Brueggemann, “Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharoah, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”

Accordingly, in more recent history, secular Sabbaths have been instituted. For example, the “weekend” is understood to be a period of the week set aside by custom or law for rest from labor. In the United States, a five-day workweek was formalized by Henry Ford in 1926 and became a standard throughout America by 1940. It then extended to many other English-speaking and European countries as an international workweek. And, “blue laws,” prohibiting certain types of commercial activity on Sundays, have been part of U.S. legal history since the colonial period to promote the observance of a day of worship or rest. More specifically, In 1961, the Supreme Court of the United States held that contemporary Maryland blue laws were intended to promote the secular values of “health, safety, recreation, and general well-being” through a common day of rest.

However, most Blue Laws have been repealed in the U.S., although many states continue to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages and cars on Sundays and they are still enforced in some European countries. Without blue laws in place, gradually even our weekends have been infiltrated with work and similar busyness.

To compound this challenge, even as advancements in technology have afforded many conveniences, the fact is that most of us are now accessible at all hours, all days of the week, no matter where we are. For many people, there are no remaining refuges offering a safe haven for periods of down-time.

Nevertheless, just because the cultural institutions of “Sabbath” have eroded does not mean that you don’t still need a rest from work. Instead, it means that you need to be more deliberate in defining your boundaries around when and how you are busy. It is currently up to each of us to impose some sanity in our busy lives by carving out times of rest from work and excess stimulation. As Stephen W. Smith states, “When practiced, Sabbath-keeping is an active protest against a culture that is always on, always available and always looking for something else to do.”

Consider how you can create and maintain a “Sabbath” in your life, a regular period of work stoppage that is free from electronic leashes (your phone, computer and T.V.).   You might carve out a day each week for recreation with family and/or friends without other distractions; define set times each day or week to turn off all electronic devices; engage in frequent mini-vacations, excursions in nature or retreats; or set aside regular periods for meditation/reflection. Take to heart Dallas Willard’s understanding of Sabbath and manifest it in your life in some manner each week: “The command is ‘Do no work.’ Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to DO to BE. Accept the grace of doing nothing. Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.”

“Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.”
― Wendell Berry


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