So, my plan was to take yesterday, today, and tomorrow to just relax. I’m in a transition period with classes, so I don’t have too many papers to grade (only about 30 this week, probably only 15 or so next week), and it seemed like the perfect time to get some rest. So, this morning Alayna and I went out to practice some spear techniques and wound up putting together the first half of a spear form. We were planning on relaxing all afternoon… that didn’t happen. Instead, my pastor called me and asked me if I could drive a very ill (long-term condition) Christian man to a city about an hour away and make sure that he got a hotel room and had some money for the next couple of days before he caught a flight home where he could be taken care of by close friends in his own church. So, I spent a good part of the afternoon doing that. Then we spent the evening with our niece and nephews at a local carnival, which was good… but not exactly relaxing.
When we finally got home, we relaxed for a little bit and then I sat down to write this post. You seem I am quite familiar with the lack of rest. We need rest–physical rest, emotional rest, intellectual rest, and spiritual rest. Alayna and I haven’t had much of any of these in the last few months. I’ve been an insomniac for most of my life, and so I can tell you exactly how a lack of physical rest affects me. I can function relatively well (70-80%) for about the first 40 hours without sleep. My function decreases progressively, but I can still be trusted to do most things (i.e. watch children, drive, do my job, etc) and I can do all of these things at a passable level. Once I hit 45-50 hours without sleep my function decreases again, this time to probably 40-55%. I can still do all of these things, but my driving is just the other side of what might be called safe, the decisions I make regarding the care of children may not be the wisest, and my comments on student papers may not make a lot of sense. Once I hit about 80 hours I stop being able to do any of my normal tasks passably well, and at around 90-95 hours I start hallucinating. By around 110 hours without sleep I’m nearly catatonic. I’ll be curled up on the bed, a sofa, or some corner of the floor muttering things that make no sense whatsoever. So, I can tell you from experience that physical rest is a necessity. However, other forms of rest are just as necessary.
We need time to relax emotionally, to feel safe, secure, and be able to shed stress and the many impacts that it has on us. Some authors have linked neuroses and even full-blown disorders such as OCD, ODD, or ADD/ADHD to stress (though they may or may not be correct in doing so, personally I believe that some disorders can certainly be worsened by stress, and that some examples of some disorders may be caused by stress, but I doubt that every example of any of the above disorders is caused by stress). So, times of emotional rest, relaxation, and stress free environments are very important for our ability to function normally. Similarly, we need play time. Now, I disagree with some who argue that we need time to turn our brains off and ‘veg,’ but we need time to engage our minds in significantly different ways. Play or ‘deep play’ can be a good example of emotional and intellectual rest in children. In many adults hobbies can serve the same function. While a child might spend three or four hours immersed in playing with G. I. Joes, an adult might spend that same time immersed in woodwork, miniature model painting, or playing a challenging game of some time. It is important to note that we don’t simply turn our brains off during such times, but we do alter their functioning to a point that they can rest from their normal duties. For instance, a laborer who spends all day figuring out how to solve complex logistical problems might come home and rest by engaging in stories and thinking about how those stories reflect the world. On the other hand, a scholar who reads all day and spends his time engaging in deep, critical thought might rest his mind by playing challenging games, solving puzzles, or engaging in stimulating creative hobbies. The point is that intellectual rest is not the same as just shutting down.
Spiritual rest is probably the most neglected and least understood of these four kinds of rest. Spiritual rest, for the Christian, is an important time of reconnection with, submission to, and reliance upon God. This can often be accomplished through prayer, bible study, or meditation, but the key is that we stop trying to do things ourselves and instead refocus and rely on God to be the sovereign lord of the universe. It is easy to engage in any of the above practices without engaging in any kind of spiritual rest. This happens when we come into these practices with the idea that we have certain expectations to uphold and that we need to manage them ourselves. This is not restful because the focus and the pressure are still on us. Instead, spiritual rest happens when we take time to spend with God simply in order to spend time with God and relax into him.
Hopefully, moving forward, Alayna and I will have some time to rest in all of the above forms. I think that we both deeply need it, and I’m guessing that some of you do as well.