The High Calling of Rest

After a particularly difficult week, I received an email from a colleague, “It sounds like you have had some serious stress lately. I will pray for you. Take care of yourself, okay?”

He was right. In the past year, I’ve reached a score of more than 500 on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, and that’s not even counting Christmas and the family vacation we took back in July. (I get an additional 25 points for those two events alone.) Stress at these levels has been proven to cause not only emotional difficulty, but physical harm as well.

How we respond to this kind of life-altering havoc has been the theme of some of the stories we have been telling here at The High Calling on Thursday mornings in August.

In “Resting My Mind,” Dena Dyer talks about the anxiety she struggles with when life feels out of control.

Confession: I have a nemesis, and his name is anxiety. As a child, I cowered in my bed at night, picturing monsters, ghosts, and burglars. I even checked my parents’ breathing while they were sleeping, to make sure they were still alive. When I became a mom, the worry I felt over everything I didn’t know and couldn’t control filled me with dread. I became emotionally and spiritually paralyzed, and began experiencing panic attacks.

Dan King says all the sound we are inundated with “uses mental energy, creates stress, and induces brain fatigue” in “Silence: Resting from Life’s Noise.”  “Between the brain fatigue from the constant noise, and the distraction of intermittent alerts throughout the day,” he adds, “It’s remarkable that I get anything done at all!”

For Cheryl Smith, it’s her body that suffers under the demands of daily life. In “Resting in the Nap Zone,” she discusses research from John Medina from whom she first learned about the afternoon slump when we just can’t seem to concentrate. Quoting Medina, Cheryl describes the problem: “It can be nearly impossible to get anything done during this time, and if you attempt to push through, which is what most of us do, you can spend much of your afternoon fighting a gnawing tiredness.”

“The ‘nap zone’ matters,” Cheryl concludes, “because our brains don’t function well during this time.”

And speaking of brains, David Rupert wonders whether we are really getting smarter when we fill our brain with so much instant-access information.

“We’re still blundering down the same paths of destruction,” he writes in “Taking a Rest from Knowing It All.” “The mere ability to call up information does little to showcase human intelligence. We still make the same mistakes. And an over-reliance on instant information short-circuits the brain’s cognitive and reasoning power. This can’t be good for the human race,” David writes.

What is the solution to all this stress? With my Holmes and Rahe score soaring at 565, how can I keep myself from getting sick or worse? The answer we’ve been reaching for this month is rest.

To give his brain a break, Dan is turning down the volume. Cheryl gives in to her napping urges and regularly curls up with a blanket for a mid-afternoon snooze. David is taking a vacation, and unplugging while he’s gone.  And Dena? She’s learning to quiet her soul.

“Do you know what I’ve learned (albeit the hard way)?” Dena asks. “Every day, the Enemy of our souls tries to pull us away from resting in Christ. Despair stalks us. As markets rise and fall, natural disasters strike, and nations war, we’re inundated with uncertainty, fear and doubt. But if we give in to the lie that it’s all for naught and there’s no reason to hope, ignoring the miracles of Incarnation and Resurrection, Satan wins. At least for now.”

Want to spend more time thinking about rest? Consider inviting a coworker or friend to read these articles with you, and spend some time discussing them together. Print out a PDF version of “The High Calling of Rest” with a list of links, resources, and questions to help you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Thursday mornings in August, we are exploring rest, what it means to quiet our minds, our bodies, our spirits. Whether we set a side a full day’s Sabbath or just a moment of silence, our homes, workplaces, communities, and churches all benefit when we take time to stop. Join us each week to tell us your stories of finding rest in the busyness of life.

Posts on rest:

Originally published at The High Calling on August 29, 2013. Image by Tim Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr