I came across a quote this morning from Socrates, who warns us to 'Beware the barrenness of a busy life.' I quickly thought of pictures taken at airplane 'graveyards' where planes are gutted and turned into spare parts. You can google hundreds of images of empty, rusted hulls of military and commercial aircraft. That's what I imagine when I think of a barren life.
I've spent far too much of my life convinced that I had to busy in order to justify my existence. To whom? I don't know. The universe, I suppose. For the longest time, I believed that while other people were more this or more that, no one would out work me. It was not uncommon for me to begin my work day before 5am and to never, ever completely shut down mentally. I lived a very busy life - afraid that if I stopped moving, people would discover how much I felt like one of those airplanes. Hollow, empty, useful as spare parts, perhaps.
I've spent the last few years learning how to rest. Thankfully, it wasn't because of a high-velocity crash-and-burn episode of my life. I've seen that happen to other people and, by God's grace, I decided to do something about it. I listened, I learned, and along the way I picked up three simple ways to rest - to regularly stop and enjoy what really matters.
For almost twenty years, I slept about four hours of sleep. There was so much I wanted to learn and do and sleep just got in the way. But as I got older, I found that I had to prop myself up with caffeine in order to be functional and even with that chemical assistance, my productivity fell off a cliff after lunch. So I paid attention to smart people who showed in study after study that ordinary, average people like you and me need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Not as punishment for being mortal but as a gift where I can recharge for the next day and trust God to take care of me.
Take A Day Off
When you look at the Ten Commandments, observing the Sabbath is a pretty big deal. Taking a day to intentionally not be productive and to enjoy God working for you ranks up there with not murdering someone. So instead of trying to eke out moments of 'down time', I've taken Saturdays and as a family we're learning to have a weekly 'stop day' where we rest and enjoy God and his gifts.
Jesus' solution when it feels like my world has turned upside down (Luke 21:25) is to pray, specifically to ask God to give me the strength to escape the counterfeit gods that clutter my life and to reorient my posture toward him (Luke 21:36). I take 30 minutes each morning to read the Bible and respond in prayer; and each night I take inventory of my day, confessing my sins and remembering the good news that Jesus has 'taken away my bad heart and given me his good heart.'
Stopping regularly to enjoy God - resting in a way that matters to us emotionally, spiritually, vocationally and physically - is simple. Sleep 7-9 hours a night. Take a day off. Pray.
But simple is not easy. More often that not, I sleep around 6 hours instead of 7-9 hours a night. I don't stop every Saturday and, even when I do, I'm apt to enjoy lots of things instead of God. And don't get me started on prayer.
Here is where I'm helped in taking simple steps toward a life of rest while trusting in a Savior who isn't waiting for me to figure it all out. Jesus has left us an open invitation, 'Come to me - learn from me - and find rest.' (Matthew 11:28).