Pastor’s Perspective – February 2014
There are many computers in the house, including laptops, I-pads and numerous smart phones, but the family desk top computer is the one that is on and running twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. No matter what each person uses as their go to device, the family desk top is the common ground that we all share. It is the place where we update our I-tunes accounts, where the kids do their homework, where Dad and Mom print out lesson plans and sermon notes. No matter how many other computers are surfing the net or streaming video, this is the computer that we wait for to get things done.
Every time I use this computer something has changed. Each person that uses the home computer makes minor changes to it. They download software or update a device, and then when the work is over they unplug, print and walk away, leaving the computer to the next person. Meanwhile, the computer continues to offer a simple instruction, often ignored, to reboot the computer to complete the process of change and improvement.
No one wants to waste their time on the time-consuming task of rebooting the computer. Furthermore, few of us really understand why we have to reboot the computer. We simply finish our work and go on to the next thing. So we ignore the prompt. Sometimes the computer takes matters into its own hands and shuts down over night. Sometimes we wait long enough so that the computer freezes up or simply crashes, leaving us without access to our work “at the worst possible time.”
There are many good reasons to take the time to reboot your computer. The best of them is simply that it helps your computer to run smoothly and efficiently so that it is ready to work when you need it the most. Rebooting does everything from clearing the memory of your computer to restructuring the programs that have changed in order to avoid conflicting orders and instructions. But beyond all of the tech talk, rebooting the computer is simply how it was designed to learn, adapt and function.
Now after all of this computer talk let me get to the point. How long has it been since you rebooted? When was the last time you truly took advantage of a Sabbath rest? Are you a twenty four/seven kind of person, or do you give yourself adequate time to shut down and allow your brain, body and soul the time to process the information that you have gathered throughout the day?
Most of us have a problem with rebooting, and I am not talking about our computers. Like that home computer we keep our brains on in background mode all day and night. We rarely take the time to process, to rest, to learn the lessons of life delivered to us at work, in school or at home.
Part of our problem is that we can easily mistake recreation for rest. Resting to us means going to a movie or watching our favorite shows. We think we are resting when we surf the web, or text on our phones until the wee hours of the night. Studies tell us that our electronic devices can and often do get in the way of true rest. Like an electronic sleep apnea, something as insignificant as the dim light from an I-pad can interrupt our REM cycles enough to keep us in a perpetual state of fatigue. If you sleep with the television on (as I often do) you are feeding information to your brain that it continually processes even while you sleep. Have you ever woken up with a strange dream only to discover that your sub-conscious had incorporated the “Insanity” workout (or a Law & Order plot-line) into your dreams? Your brain just did an all-nighter.
The American people rejected the concept of the Sabbath a long time ago. We no longer take a day to rest, relax and worship. Most of us work seven day weeks, and often times our work at home can exceed the stress levels that we experience on the job. I find it fascinating that the biblical Jewish Sabbath didn’t define work only as what we did to earn an income. The Sabbath laws prohibited people from doing things like cooking a meal or daily chores. Why? Jesus, the Creator, understood that rest was not just a day off. Rest is about renewal. We need to take the time to shut things down so that we can function at our maximum physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacity.
As I write these words, I am continuing to ask my computer to reboot in another hour, delaying the very rest that I am writing to you about. This is the irony. We often feel that we are above the instructions of God. We are tough enough to live without rest. We cannot, however, continually ignore the Creator’s advice and function at top capacity for more than just a brief amount of time. Though we can occasionally get away with putting it off, eventually we must take the time to reboot (or our body will force us to rest with illness or exhaustion).
Rest, however, is not something that we should do only to avoid illness or injury. Rest can actually increase your productivity. It can help you to learn. Rest helps your body to heal and even allows for growth (down to the cellular level).
I have used rest as part of my study and learning process since my days as a college student and seminarian. My friends would get mad at me because it seemed to them that I was always sleeping with a book on my lap. Little did they realize it, but I was using sleep as a way of solidifying the information that I was studying. I would read and study and then “sleep on it.” I would take short naps in between study sessions, renew my mind and “magically” store the material in my brain. The most important thing about this was that I did not put anything else between the study and my sleep. So instead of dreaming about the ginsu knife or patrolling the streets with Dirty Harry, I dreamt of psychological stage theories, the bones of the skull, or the history of the German Reformation. When I woke up, I knew I was ready if I dreamed of the material. When I spoke in Hebrew during my dreams I was ready for my Hebrew exam. My brain was trained and I was prepared. I used the reboot to my advantage.
Think of what we can do if we allowed ourselves the proper rest. If we prepared to rest by reading God’s word and meditating on the changes that God is calling us to. Some people argue that there are not enough hours in the day to do the things that they feel called to do. I discovered a long time ago that adding another hour to my day would not help me to get things done. When I am honest with myself I discover that my lack of productivity is most often the result of doing too many things (most of which are not fruitful or edifying). Our problem is not that we rest too often, but that we are too easily distracted by false gods or misplaced priorities.
Rest is part of the way we were created to live. It exists to renew us, to restore us, to help us to marinate in the wisdom of the Saints and the word of God. Of course, rest is no good if that is all you do. Sleeping all day is not rest, it is sloth. Rest is only valuable if it is part of the ebb and flow of daily and weekly life. We need to take the time to exercise our mind, grow spiritually, and maintain a healthy physical fitness. We need the stimulation and the value of work in our lives, but while sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, the command to maintain a Sabbath rest is found in the fabric of the Creation story and specifically articulated in the Law that God gave to Moses.
God’s command to rest is for our benefit. God’s commands are not intended to hurt or frustrate us; they are intended to help us grow strong, loving and wise. They have value because they are instructions given by the Creator to allow each of God’s children to reach our divinely inspired potential. Wise counsel is only life changing, however, when we follow it. My counsel for you today is simple: value your life and work enough to create days of rest and renewal.
May we be blessed through the renewal of our body, mind, and spirit and find rest in Jesus Christ,