Saturday, June 09, 2007

Wresting Rest

I feel bad. Not the just-clubbed-a-bunch-of-baby-seals-for-coats bad but the stayed-up-too-late-going-clubbing bad. Now, I did not spend last night downtown, but I just feel that way. I feel icky. My stomach growls, but I do not feel like eating. Stubble has become me.

I shall call it fatigue.

Now, I have not come to Redeeming Prufrock whine. We are all tired. Old and young. Employeed, part-time employeed, or unemployeed. Justified or not. We are all tired. I have become convinced by observation and experience that feeling fatigued unites us. We are always busy and are thus always tired, no matter what we have done or how much sleep we have gotten.

In his song off the "Save the Last Dance" soundtrack (and yes, I own it; who doesn't?), Ice Cube opines, "Life ain't a track meet, it's a marathon." I fear I must disagree with Mr. Cube. When I used to run cross country, we loved our long runs. We'd run ten, 12 miles and think nothing of it. Why? you may ask. Because we ran S. . . . L . . . .O. . . .W. We chatted. We relaxed. We enjoyed the weather. What killed us were track workouts. We'd run a shorter interval, say a half-mile, about as hard as we could, then take two minutes of rest before gearing back up for another speedy half-mile. These workouts were brutal. These workouts made people barf.

In my experience, life is more like the track workout, not a marathon but a "series of sprints" as my friend Alex Kirk puts it. This explains why we feel so tired all the time. This explains why we so often feel the need to emotionally barf.

This reality puts a premium on what we do in the interval between repeats. How do we recover? How do we wrest rest from out busy lives?

I looked up rest in the Humphries Kneejerk Dictionary and found this:

rest (v.) - to not work.

One could do worse than this definition, I suppose. After all, we rest by going to the beach, by reading or watching television, and by napping.

Yet, I have found a great irony in rest. As I get older these activities oftentimes do not make me feel restful. I used to spend Sunday afternoons "resting." I would lay on the futon for seven straight hours after church and watch football. This would seem as Heaven, especially during seasons when the Carolina Panthers found success and Michael Vick found failure. (and honestly, can anyone remember when the latter was not the case?). Come 5:00 though, I began to feel icky, stale, worthless, In short, I felt unrested.

Three Things That Do Not Make Me Feel Rested:
-Sleeping more than 11 hours in a day
-Laying on the couch all afternoon
-Doing nothing

Six Things That Do Make Me Feel Rested:
-Controlled sleeping
-Controlled football watching
-Hanging out with friends

So my kneejerk definition breaks down. Oftentimes, simply avoiding work does not provide rest. How about a second defintion, this one from the Benetian More Thought Out Dictionary:

rest (v.) - to do that which rejuvenates.

What this actually looks like stands beyond me. Sometimes hanging out with people wears me out. All the time running does. With this defintion, rest can take many forms depending on your mood and your personality. It also makes it very difficult to provide "An Answer" to the question "How do we rest?" Perhaps this is where we must leave it. It simply may not be a black and white issue.

The Bible mentions rest a good bit but very rarely details. God rested on the seventh day of creation but the text does not elaborate. The folks of the Old Testament and some in the New took a Sabbeth day which again seems to simply mean a day to abstain from work. Jesus constantly took rests where he retreated from his public life to spend time alone with the Father. This seems the best, most complete picture of rest that the Bible provides.

Perhaps we can do no better than to say a restful day, whatever form it may take, must include spending time with the only One who really knows how to give us the rest that we need.

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