After my cancer episode, I decided to build more rest into my life. I remember reading God’s instructions to Moses and the Israelites about observing the Sabbath: “It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day, He rested and was refreshed” (Exod. 31:17 NKJV). I didn’t totally understand that verse until I studied the words rested and refreshed. Why would God need to rest and be refreshed?
I now look at those words as a prescription for our lives. The word refreshed can also be translated to mean “exhale.” God took a breath. Are you intentional about finding times of rest and refreshment? When I realized I needed to make some changes in my life and that it was time for me to take the lead in my family with this new direction of not being overcommitted, I wrote down four words in my journal: rest, refresh, restore, and recreate. For me, these words are all a part of living a sabbath life. Today, I would call sabbath a prescription to fight the sickness of busyness and hurry.
Rest. I’ve asked people all over the world this question: “Do you and your family stop the busy pace of life to take a restful, peaceful break?” Most of the time I hear, “I wish we did, but we don’t very often.” Americans are guilty of not even taking a reasonable amount of vacation, let alone a weekly time of rest. If you are not taking a twenty-four-hour restful break each week, you are probably pressing toward burnout. Emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy people know how to rest. They work hard but understand the importance of a day off. They regularly rest from social media and phones and other distractions. To put rest into our schedules is to find replenishment for our hurried souls, and the only way to do that is to cease too much activity. Rest is a discipline that brings recovery to our lives.
Refresh. What do you do regularly to recharge and rejuvenate? What do you do to refresh your family relationships? Everyone is different, but we all need permission to do whatever it takes to refresh our souls and our primary relationships. For one family I know, Monday evening is sacred. They go out for ice cream and then come home and play a game together. My wife gets refreshed by taking a long hike. Someone else will become refreshed by curling up next to the fire and reading a good novel. Years ago, when I was a pastor in a church, my body was often in need of a peaceful and restorative nap on Sunday afternoon. If you’ve been overloaded a while, it may take some effort to find what works for you, but do whatever it takes to find refreshment.
Restore. Cancer woke me up to the fact that our lives and relationships bend and break under the burden of busyness. Repair and rebuilding come from proactively restoring our lives. What do you do regularly to restore your soul and your relationships? For Cathy and me, it’s a date night each week. I have some friends who are high-profile, extremely busy leaders. No doubt their busyness has added a lot of conflict in their relationship. I suggested they attend an intensive marriage experience, spending four nights and five days in rigorous counseling and communication. I thought it might be the difference between divorce and reconciliation. I warned them it would cost thousands of dollars. I met with them about a month after they returned from the marriage intensive and asked them what was the most insightful decision of the experience. “We now walk our dog twice around the block and talk together every night,” they said. I wanted to say, “That’s it?” Then they added, “We hadn’t been spending much time together, so we never really restored our relationship. Now the first time around the block is dealing with whatever issue might be on our minds between us, and the second time around is to restore the relationship.” They were effusive in praising me for giving them the idea. It works for them. I could have told them to walk their dog together for nothing and it could have saved them thousands of dollars! Again, do whatever works for you. And usually you know what you need to do to rebuild and restore.
Recreate. Yes, recreation is a form of rest. Is there enough recreation in your life? The healing element of lesson 1, “Have Serious Fun,” is in the fact that play often causes deep soul rest. Recreation together creates a bond in families like few other experiences. Here are three benefits of adding more recreation to your life:
- You unplug from the daily grind. It takes your mind off whatever is stressing you and adds the fun factor to your life.
- It improves your health. Participating in physical activity enhances your muscles, helps with sleep issues, decreases stress, and produces what I like to call the “feel-good hormones,” which give you a better quality of life.
- It improves bonding. Most recreation is done together, and this produces healthy conversations, which in turn produce wholesome bonding with others.