It’s Sunday afternoon. My wife and daughter are at a baby shower. My son is taking his standard, extremely long, post-church nap. My standard Sunday afternoon counseling appointments all cancelled for the day. No family, no work, no honey-do projects. I don’t have anything I HAVE to do. I am in the strange position of having no seriously pressing obligations, apart from some writing I’d like to get done, which I could reasonably do tomorrow. Because of the odd demands of being a small town, small church pastor I work most days. When I am not working, I am being a dad or a husband. I am not complaining about these things. I love them. The real trick is that I don’t often take time to rest because I am so busy being busy.
Rest is a need that is built in to all of us. We need to stop and breath periodically. It’s so important that God requires that we rest in the 10 Commandments. We are literally commanded to take time to rest and spend with God. Rest is important because it gives time for our souls to recharge. We need to discharge our stress and be replenished by God in order to continue to be sharp. I often talk to folks who struggle with keeping their spiritual fervor active and vital in their lives. In every incidence of this struggle, the folks in question don’t take time to rest and be intimate with God. Really problematic is the sad reality that, in many cases, we have forgotten how to rest and recharge, instead choosing to always zone out and escape. Over the years, I have learned a few things about rest, largely because I don’t slow down all that much.
Rest is more than shutting off: Rest isn’t just napping in the hammock, though that’s one of my favorite leisure activities. Rest includes, among other things, mindless detached time, investment in relationship for the purpose of refilling personally, time spent with God for the purpose of maintaining spiritual health and peace, and times of reflection and quiet. Each of these components has a place in rest, though for many the detachment of TV time has become the sole focus or rest.
Rest needs to be regular and intentional. If you are not naturally inclined to slow down and take it easy, it is necessary to be intentional about resting weekly. It’s no coincidence that the Bible directs us to take a Sabbath day of rest. If we run too long, we wear out. Once a week is an appropriate interval for resting, though down time on a daily basis is good if you can manage it.
Time with God is important! One of the major components of rest is time spent with God, praying, meditating, worshipping, or reading His word. This is important because we were designed to be in relationship with God. Maintaining intimate relationship with God is vital to maintaining our spiritual vitality. It’s a little like tuning up a car. The car may continue to run if it’s not tuned up, but it won’t run right. We are similar. We may be able to maintain our spiritual lives without regular visits with God, but we won’t run as well. Eventually, a lack of regular maintenance will result in breakdowns.
It’s important for men to spend time with other men. It’s pretty common for men with careers and families to fall off from interaction with other guys. However, men challenge each other to excellence in ways that really doesn’t happen in other relationships. It’s worth noting that this time needs to be significant. Many men have only surface relationships with each other that never delve any deeper than opinions on sports or politics. Deeper personal connection is important. This is somewhat taboo in our culture where guys are encouraged to be unfeeling and as deep as most kiddie pools. The reality is that deeper personal connection leads to recharging and growth in ways that simply does not happen in other relationships.
Family time is important. Spending leisure time talking and playing with family is an important component of rest. Family relationships are central to a man’s life and occupy a center point in his relationship sphere. Spending time with family playing and enjoying the relationship is a big deal. This needs to take place as a whole family and also with spouses only, because the marital relationship ought to be the source of significant relief as well. This is a big deal because family relationships can often be a source of enormous stress due to obligations and responsibilities. Without leisure time, it’s easy to grow resentful of the personal toll that accompanies family obligations. Intentional rest together can fall to the wayside in this sort of environment.