In the Challenger space shuttle disaster, key NASA officials made the ill-fated decision to go ahead with the launch after working twenty hours straight and getting only two to three hours of sleep the night before. Their error in judgment cost the lives of seven astronauts and nearly killed the U.S. space program.
When we ignore our need for rest and renewal we do so at the peril of others and ourselves.
Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that show us were to go. We make faulty judgments. We miss the solitude that gives us wisdom. Consequently, because of our lack of rest, our lives are in danger. Error in our judgment may cost us, too, our lives.
How have we allowed this to happen? How did we get so terribly rushed in a world saturated with work and responsibility, yet somehow void or joy and delight?
Rest and relaxation are not optional. Rest was never meant to be a luxury, but a necessity for growth, maturity, and health. We need rest because our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being demands periodic breaks. The old proverb is true, “If you don’t come apart and rest awhile, you will come apart.”
In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between action and rest. We need to regain that rhythm.
When you listen to an orchestra, all the parts work together in harmony. The music has balance and rhythm. Without rhythm, the music is awkward and out of sync. It just doesn’t flow right.
Have you ever felt as if your life isn’t flowing right, as if you’ve lost the rhythm? To have rhythm in your life, four ingredients are necessary: rest, worship, play, and work. Too many of us change and reverse these ingredients and end up with work, work, work, and perhaps a little play.
Gordon Dahl wrote, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.” Or to keep with our metaphor, their lifestyles resemble a song in dire need of rhythm.
Rest is more than the absence of work. In resting, we partake of the wisdom, peace and delight that grow only in the soil of time—time consecrated specifically for play, refreshment and renewal. Many of us, in our desperate drive to be successful, feel terribly guilty when we take time to rest.
In the deep jungles of Africa an American traveler was making a long trek. He had hired tribesmen to carry his load of equipment and luggage. For several days they marched rapidly rarely stopping to rest. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. One morning the traveler found his African tribesmen refusing to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone to fast and they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.
Here’s the point: The speed in which we live and the corresponding lack of rest in which so many of us experience does for us what the march did for the jungle tribesmen. The difference between them and us is that they knew what was needed to restore life’s balance; too often we do not.
We need blocks of time on a regular basis to rest our bodies and recharge our souls, or as the Africans would say to let our souls catch up with our bodies, in order to remain free of burnout and breakdown.
Let us, then, for a few minutes each day, for one day a week, and for a few weeks each year, cease our striving for more, and rest.
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