I used to think that constant productivity was necessary, that I ought to be working if I had the time for it. After my first two semesters of seminary, I decided to take four consecutive Hebrew classes in one summer through the school’s annual language institute (I know, it sounds crazy). I felt burned out by the start of the fourth class, but I pressed on, looking forward to a short break before the fall semester began. Sadly, however, the break wasn’t quite as long as I expected; before long, I was back in class, assignments and responsibilities growing by the week. By that spring, I felt more stressed out than I can ever remember feeling before or since. I learned that I couldn’t kill myself with work, that I needed to make time for rest to avoid burnout.
So I switched up my routine. I began to try to set aside one day each week to be my Sabbath, my time of rest. On that day, I wouldn’t work on school related assignments. At most, I’d read for one of my classes, but I tried to avoid even that. And things began to change. Stress decreased and peace increased. Things were good. Then I began to grow lazy, letting my work slip far more than it should have. Apathy began to overtake motivation, and focus seemed lost.
We seem to shift back and forth between extremes in life, never settling well in the middle ground. Where balance is the goal, people can often be seen in various levels of leaning one way or the other. Rarely do we seem to maintain the balance we seek. I’ve found this to be true in most areas of my life, but especially in the areas of school and spiritual life.
Although I struggle to find a healthy balance, I have learned a valuable lesson: resting well helps tremendously with maintaining a healthy balance. Resting well means intentionally making time to rest within my busy schedule without wasting time in laziness. Resting well means refocusing on God and letting him strengthen me rather than believing that I have an endless supply of energy in and of myself to maintain pace. Resting well means admitting that I am not necessary for the success of ministry.
I’ve learned to rest in a number of ways: from reading in coffee shops to browsing books at local bookstores, from writing poetry and blog posts to watching movies, from long drives to visit friends to short trips to taste a favorite food. The key in each of these is to stop, pray, and enjoy the simple graces that God gives, doing all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
This week, I pray I will work hard and rest well. I pray that God will be glorified in all that I do. And I pray that we would, by his grace, learn to balance work and rest more faithfully.