What Is Rest?

What Is Rest?

Life is crazy.

What else is there to say? Life can be absolutely overwhelming at times, and sometimes it feels like it will never slow down. In fact, somehow life seems to keep going faster! January hits, you have all of these plans and dreams and aspirations and goals (some you hit, some you don’t), next thing you know it’s July and the year is half gone already!

This has been a crazy and tiring season for us. Between fixing a house in the afternoons/evenings, helping prepare for a ministry we’re heavily involved in, having said ministry for two weeks, working on my full time job, and working on other projects on the side, things have been a bit chaotic and difficult to keep track of. Honestly, this list is relatively small. I know other families have lists significantly larger than this in their day-to-day life, filling their days completely full with what needs done. However, that’s not how Danielle and I want to live.

As we’ve been growing in our walk with Christ and trying to understand what it means to live fulfilled, full, and joyful lives, we’ve been learning that the act and practice of rest is probably one of the most important (and difficult). There was a time in our lives that if felt like we were living in a constant daze or fog, especially during our college years. We were exhausted on every level, running on fumes, and still running ourselves ragged with the things we thought we had to do. At some point during this season, we realized that living life in a daze isn’t a good or healthy way to live, so how do we fix this? That is when we really started to dive into this idea of rest.

Rest ≠ Sleep

Let me make one thing clear; when I am talking about rest, I’m not referring to sleeping. Don’t get me wrong, sleep certainly helps! I like to sleep as much as the next person. However, when it comes to the practice of rest, sleep is not what I mean. But… Sleep can be an act of rest. Let me explain.

When you are at the end of your rope, completely tapped out and exhausted, you are more than just physically tired (even though that is a part of it). Being physically tired is just one part of a bigger picture when it comes to exhaustion (or burnout). I’m not really a car guy, but I’m going to use a car as an analogy.

The human engine I believe runs on four primary fuel tanks: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual/Soul. If any one tank is empty, the engine can keep on going, but it’s going to draw reserves from the other tanks to keep going. When you’re physically tired you can draw on determination. When you’re emotionally exhausted you push through for the sake of others. But, if you fail to refill all of the tanks, you’ll eventually run dry, crash, and burn.

Now, this isn’t a perfect example. Everyone is different; their ‘fuel’ capacity may differ from another person’s or their reactions to the emptying of these tanks, but it does hold true that if we go at a pace that is unsustainable for too long, we will break.

Sleep = Rest?

When we first started our journey of rest, we were on the edge of burnout. We didn’t like living on that edge, so we did something about it. With God’s help and prompting, we started refilling our tanks one at a time, starting with the Physical. We went to bed earlier and more consistently, made sure to give ourselves breathing room between things on the schedule if at all possible, exercised (if you have an inactive job, you’d be surprised how much more energized this makes you. Although, this is probably more of a mental tank filler.), and started dialing back on our ministry involvement.

As the saying goes, don’t listen to what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that ministry is bad. But it is exhausting, especially when it’s a weekly basis. We had at least three to four weekly (or semi-regular) ministries that we participated in helping with that we enjoyed, but we were at a stage where we couldn’t continue to maintain the pace we were going. Will we pick up those ministries again at some point? Probably. When that is, we don’t know. What I do know is that we want to make sure we can give fully to that ministry and not out of our exhaustion.

Sorry about the rant! Just wanted to be clear 🙂

Like I said, rest is not sleep, but sleep (and many other things) can provide rest and refuel your tank. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t an overnight process. One night of sleeping 24 hours won’t make up for years of sleeping only 4 to 5. But, starting with refilling your physical reserves is probably one of the easier places to start. Something cool that we noticed as well is that once you start this process, you’ll notice there’s less of a drain on your other tanks, making it easier to refill them.

Living With Margin

I could continue for quite a while with the other three tanks, and if there is interest, maybe I’ll give my thoughts on the other three, but I don’t want to make this a giant wall of text that no one wants to read 😛 However, there is one thing I really want to talk about when it comes to this concept of rest: Living with margin.

There is a book by Richard Swenson called “Margin” that I’ve read recently and it talks about this concept. We’re living in a world that keeps moving faster and faster and it can feel impossible to keep up. We’re all living at 110% all the time and not giving ourselves enough breathing room to prevent ourselves from burning out. If you’re always living without this margin, what happens when something big and unexpected comes up? You have nothing left to give.

This isn’t to say we can’t live at 110% sometimes. There are times we need to give our all and then some to get through a situation, but they key is to live that way –sometimes-, not all of the time. Danielle and I don’t want to live our lives with nothing left to give people when something comes up. Easier said than done, but that’s the point of margin and rest.

We’re still learning and we have a long way to go before we fully understand what we need for rest and living life fully alive, but I hope this gives you a stepping stone to get you started on your own journey of rest. Step back. Breathe. You got this 🙂

- Written By David D.

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