Rest . . . and That’s an Order
- Thursday, July 14, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the latest installment of The Single Life, a monthly lifestyle column written specifically for singles.
On a wall of my home I have a collection of prints that look like they’re from the 1930s; they illustrate the Ten Commandments. I love the retro feel of these pictures but rarely pay that much attention as I walk by. After all, I generally feel I’m pretty much on track with God’s Top Ten: ixnay on the idols, don’t kill anybody, avoid adultery . . . check. But then I hit number four: “Remember the Sabbath day” or as my New Century Version Bible puts it, “Work and get everything done during six days each week, but the seventh day is a day of rest . . .” (Exodus 20:8-10).
Ah. That one . . . not so much.
In our work-obsessed culture we tend to feel that the more hours you put in, the more virtuous you are. (This is especially true for those in ministry.) However, research has shown that’s actually counter-productive. Exercise magazines of all kinds are full of advice to take regular breaks for better performance. Even God took a day off; after fashioning everything from nothing he “blessed the seventh day and made it a holy day, because on that day he rested from all the work he had done in creating the world.” (Genesis 2:3)
Somehow I doubt he did that because he needed a break; it was an example for us to follow. Make no mistake, when God says “Rest” he means it. It’s written in stone—literally—in his very own handwriting on that granite memo Moses brought down from the mountain. So maybe it’s time we put a little thought into what it actually means to rest.
Passive VS. Active Rest
In his bookThe Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone Is Not Enough, author Dr. Matthew Edlund says rest falls into two major categories, passive and active. Sleep is a form of passive rest. So is watching television, he claims, which only proves the good doctor never watched a Cowboys game with my family. (There is nothing passive about that experience, let me tell you.) Technically, even passive rest isn’t all that passive; while you’re sound asleep or zoned out in front of the tube your muscles and tissues are hard at work repairing little tears and fixing other physical issues. Your skin is producing new cells and so is your brain. You may feel passive, but your body is regenerating.
Active rest, on the other hand, “consists of directed restorative activities that rebuild and rewire body and mind.”[i] Dr. Edlund divides active rest into four categories: mental, social, spiritual, and physical. Let’s break those down.
4 Kinds of Active Rest
Mental rest is when you focus on something that rejuvenates you. Say you’re working on a complicated project with no end in sight and your thoughts are starting to feel sluggish. A little brain break may be just what you need. It can be as simple as looking at something else for a couple of minutes. If you’re near a window, try studying the clouds. If not, peer at a desk plant. Don’t multitask here: focusing on just one thing gives your subconscious a chance to breathe—and might even give it space to come up with a solution to that problem you’ve been wrestling with.
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