Updated: Oct 6, 2019
Have you ever thought about the plethora of words we use to describe feeling tired? In only a few minutes, I came up with the following:
Plumb tuckered out
Seeing these words on paper is powerful. There is destruction in being tired: smashed, wasted, shattered. There is loss in being tired, perhaps even brokenness beyond repair: wiped out, fried, dead. When we are tired, it’s as if we lose something of ourselves.
Accordingly, the medical community draws attention to the value and importance of sleep because a lack of sleep literally destroys our bodies. An article from the National Institutes of Health entitled “The Benefits of Slumber” quotes one researcher as saying, “Loss of sleep impairs your higher levels of reasoning, problem-solving and attention to detail. Tired people tend to be less productive at work.” He goes on to say that “sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies. . . . It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.”
I think we all know this even if we don’t take time to rest well. We know the effects of no rest because we feel it.
Physical fatigue is the first thing to come to mind when we think about being tired, but there is also what my grandmother called being “soul-tired.” Can you remember a season in your life that made you tired in the deepest part of your self? Maybe it was an illness that you fought or a family member’s major struggle that you came alongside. When we fight for the strength to face the day, we are experiencing tiredness of the soul.
There is a strong association of being tired with being poor. Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus,” cast in bronze at the base of the Statue of Liberty, is familiar to us all: “Bring me your tired, your poor.” This strong association of tiredness and poverty reflects the negative connotation rest has in American society. Many of us associate rest with weakness or laziness. The measure of a great life, according to the modern measuring stick, is what we produce. So we live on the go and plugged in. Dave Rhodes likes to say that “we are zombies by day and insomniacs by night.”
God’s sense of a great life, however, begins with rest. Instead of working, working, working until we fall down and calling that rest, we are designed to work from our rest. Since the beginning of time, in the creation story of Genesis 1 itself, the day begins with rest. Modern Judaism marks the day’s beginning at sundown. The day opens with a prayer, a meal, and sleep. Only after we are fueled, both spiritually and physically, do we get to work. In God’s economy, our ability to produce is dependent upon rest.
I tried to brainstorm words for rest, but it was much harder. I wonder what words you would name. I thought of the following:
The whole process of naming rest surprised me. If I am honest, a little bit of anxiety began to rise in me. I don’t rest well. I begin to worry about what I will miss, what could be accomplished, and what might go wrong.
Also, I really like to work. I am one of those types for whom work is play. Even when I have space to rest, getting stuff done is rejuvenating to me. However, I have taken to heart the distinction Dallas Willard makes here between being busy and being in a hurry. Rest helps our souls not be in a hurry. We can be busy, which essentially means being active. But God designed us to be available to both him and others, which means we cannot be in a hurry. Maximizing our opportunity to connect with and serve the poor and the tired relies on our ability to be present in the moment.
Jesus speaks directly to me when he blesses the poor in spirit in the Beatitudes, declaring that the poor in spirit will inherit the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3). To be poor is to be without. Being tired is to be without. Yet here Jesus is holding up those who rest in his strength, who find replenishment in his Spirit, who allow him to lead and carry the load. He turns the stigma of being poor upside down, ripping it from its association with wealth and attaching it to abiding with him.
The invitation Jesus gives us in Matthew 11:28 is profound, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” The Lord of the universe designed us for rest, wants to bless us with the gift of replenishment, desires for us to live out of fullness and not poverty.
In the Younique Life Plan Journey we intentionally build rhythms of rest. They ebb and flow in our lives based on our situtation and circumstance, but what does not change is the importance of having rest rhythms in our lives. Because it can be hard and counter-cultural to establish these rhythms, we believe they must be declared and managed.
Replenishment is not a luxury or a sign of weakness. Rather, it is a way to optimize our productivity. If we are going to avoid the destruction of being tired, then we must plan fortitude. Being available to the Spirit and to others requires energy and presence that only come from adequate rest. You are designed not merely to rest from your work but to work from your rest.