Rest isn’t really something we talk about, is it?
I mean, sure, we talk about sleep. We talk about how to get more of it, how to get better quality sleep in the time we are sleeping, but it’s usually in the context of, “I want to stay up and binge watch House of Cards so how can I get an awesome night’s sleep in like five hours?”
Our bodies aren’t meant for that. We may be a 24/7 society, but our bodies are not 24/7 machines.
In my “past” life (when I was working full time) I ignored rest like it was my job. There was no time to rest. There were deadlines and things to do and getting up early to beat traffic. There was no time for the nine hours of sleep I needed, because then I’d be going to bed at like eight thirty, and then I couldn’t do theater, or church things, or sing in the choir, or anything else I enjoyed.
I was also the same way in college. I was in a lot of things. I just went, went, went, until I landed in the hospital. Then it was an obvious TIME OUT from God. Go, go, go, until you can’t go anymore. And since everyone does it, how bad can it be?
When I left my job, I realized how much sleep I’d been missing. I’ve always liked sleep and my bed (“I miss my bed. I’m thinking about keeping a picture of it in my wallet.”–The West Wing). Sleep is good. Even the Bard said so: “Ah, sweet sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” (Macbeth II.iii) I found I needed a solid 9 hours to really be happy, productive, and uncranky. And also–head bang–healthy. My body needs sleep.
This is not something people are generally sympathetic to. Admitting you need sleep is almost shameful. People say “Oh you can make it up.” “Oh, we’re not tired!” But in my case, I can’t make it up. My body needs sleep. It needs that time to rest and repair, otherwise bad things happen later. So now I know I need nine hours of sleep, and I’m finally getting it. And I’m much happier and probably healthier for it, because I’m not always running on coffee and sleep deprivation fumes.
But there’s another part of rest–spiritual rest. And this goes back to the same sort of thing: “Oh, I don’t have time for it.” I don’t have time for prayer, I don’t have time for a retreat, I don’t have time for a holy hour. And this may be true for a lot of us (moms, CEOs, full-time worker bees, etc). But I also know that even when I was working full time, these spiritual rests were vital to keeping me sane. I need that time in prayer, whether it’s saying my rosary at home, attending a Holy Hour at my parish, reading a spiritual book, or weekend long silent retreats.
We have to go to the well of Christ to fill us spiritually. We have to draw the water every day. If not, it’s just like sleep deprivation–at some point, you crash and burn. You can’t handle it anymore, you know? Everything becomes way too hard. But with Him, and with adequate rest, we can handle things (if not completely, then at least better).
But it can seem like time wasting, right? Or not as important? There’s dinner to make and laundry to do and trash to take out and sidewalks to shovel and oh the plumbing needs fixed and the car’s being wonky and the bills need paid……who has time for sleep? Who has time for rest?
You do. You have to have it.
Lent is a good time to think about this. Winter can be brutal. We can feel beat up and badly used. But we’re looking toward spring, it’s a good time to reassess our habits. What’s working for us? What isn’t?
Slipping on rest definitely does not work. Stop doing it. Listen to Christ and trust him. Come to him. Rest.