We all have one thing in common: We need rest.
Sometimes it’s deep rest and sometimes it’s brief. We all get what we can, where we can, and when we can. But here’s the thing: we’re settling for getting the rest we’re able to get, but not the rest we actually need.
Teenagers stay up all night and then sleep all day on sofas, under desks, and in hammocks stretched between trees. People with start-up companies and school finals do the same. We’re not the only ones with weird resting habits. I’ve read that giraffes only sleep twenty minutes a day. It’s the same for a couple new moms I know. Albatross sleep while they fly.
I’m not kidding.
I’m not sure why we try to get rest in the peculiar ways we do. I suppose we’re all just trying to cope with the completing claims on our time. Birds have to fly and giraffes need to stay awake. We’re all just trying to do the best we can to manage the circumstances we are dealt. So we cope with the hailstorm of activities and responsibilities we’ve agreed to, while forfeiting the rest we need.
The world tells us to get some sleep, take a break, or go on a vacation; but we know it doesn’t really mean it because at the same time it sells us more than nine million bottles of energy shots per week. We put a premium on over-amped, over-caffeinated, high-achieving lives and miss what we were designed by God to need the most, which is solid rest. We all have seasons in life when that isn’t possible; but like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when it’s always winter but never Christmas, the seasons of calm are constantly deferred by us. Jesus’ message to His friends was simple. He told them to let Christmas come a little earlier in their lives, to come away with Him and find rest.
When our son Richard was little, he could fall asleep anywhere: on a boat, in a plane, and even under the table after a holiday dinner. It was hard to tell sometimes if he was awake or asleep. He could be standing up, looking forward, but he would actually be out cold. Only his glazed-over eyes would tell the truth. I’d look at his face, nudge his shoulder, and say, “Hey buddy, are you okay?” while holding his wrist to check for a pulse. One night, Bob even found him sleepwalking on our neighbor’s yard wearing nothing but his boxers. It was more than a little weird.
Yet, it’s not unlike how a lot of us go through life. We might have more than boxers on, but much of the time when our eyes are open, we’re actually asleep to what’s going on around us. The opposite is true as well. When we do find our way to bed at night, our eyes might be closed, but we’re not actually resting at all. The activities, uncertainties, and complex relationships we’re trying to figure out and balance are as loud as a bunch of roosters crowing, constantly bidding us to abandon rest. We will never find our purpose in exhaustion.
The truth is, it’s hard to get what we really need, so we settle for what we can easily get. When our kids were growing up, I found small islands of solace while sitting quietly in my car waiting for the school bell to ring. It wasn’t enough, but it was the few coveted minutes I needed to make the transition from rushing around getting things done to reconnecting with the kids again. I thought all of this might change as the kids grew up, but the older we all got, the busier we got. Eventually, we learned to substitute activity and productivity for what we needed much more—rest.
I learned something when we were remodeling our home. A piece of plywood is actually stronger than a solid piece of wood. Here’s the reason: Plywood is made of lots of thin layers of wood with glue holding them all together. The direction of the grain in the plywood is rotated ninety degrees with each layer added. The glue triples the strength of the wood. We’re all like plywood in many ways. The thin pieces of wood in our lives are the things we value the most and what we’re good at. Rest is the glue that keeps all of these things we value together. Forget the glue in our lives and all we have to work with is a bunch of thin scraps of wood.
It isn’t just something we do when we’re asleep either. It’s a place we can go when we’re awake. We all have places of rest. Some of these places we find and some we make. Find your place. It can be beside a small stream, at a park, under a bridge, or at the end of an old oak tree limb. Find that place and go there often. Make it yours. Claim it. Tell it you’ll be right back when you leave.