If I Rest, I Rust

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 – The 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for July 22, 2012

“…He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourself and rest awhile…’” (Mark 6:31)

In a typical week, my days include writing, work at hospice, exercise, watching television, reading, surfing the web, chores around the house, preparing food, eating food and procrastination.

What happens in your typical day? If you have kids in school or serve in the military, you’d probably claim different activities than me. But we all share one additional event on our “typical day” that I didn’t include . . .


The first paragraph loosely orders my daily activities from most to least amount of time. Which is to say, I’ll spend more time writing than procrastinating and less time eating a meal than preparing a meal. And yet if I were to add sleep as an eleventh item, it would immediately race to the head of the class. Don’t I spend more time sleeping than anything else? Don’t you?

There are 168 hours in a week and most experts I’ve heard suggest logging eight or so hours every day in a horizontal position. So, let’s say you work a 40-hour-a-week job that takes 50 or 60 hours to accomplish because you’re a dedicated employee or an overworked fool or a take-no-prisoners entrepreneur. Whether or not you should be proud of this, perhaps your 60 wide-eyed and bushy-tailed hours of commitment to W-O-R-K will outwit, outplay and outlast the projected 56 hours of slumber those statisticians proclaim you should have.

If you work more than sleep, can I briefly be your concerned pastor and gently chide you about your skewed schedule?

Get some sleep fool!

But how dare I chide, finger-point or tsk-tsk! In a typical night I log a maximum of 5.5 hours of shut-eye. Silly me, I’m in bed by 10pm and then up at 3:30am, long before dawn cracks. However I’m a dedicated napper. Since I’ve chosen the early morning for my writing time, I compensate by snoozing for an hour in the afternoon. Boring!

Everybody’s different. Everyone, for good and bad reasons, undermines prognostications about average sleep. Or work. Or exercise. Or . . . you name it. The crucial question, which is also a question of faith, is about balance in life. Do you balance work, rest and recreation?

Once, after Jesus’ disciples had accomplished good, worthwhile work, he said, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)

Good advice. Didn’t happen, though. Within a few verses, crowds followed and the idea of rest stayed exactly that:  an idea.

No rest for the wicked. I’ll rest when I die. If I rest, I rust.

However, rest is essential. And rest is not sleep or a nap or staring blankly into the distance because you’re too exhausted to do anything. Additionally, just because Jesus and his disciples never got rest doesn’t mean we’re supposed to take the Bible literarily!

Rest is balance. For me—and this may be different than you—exercise represents rest. I need to engage in an activity that allows my mind and heart to open to thoughts and prayers, for my lungs and legs to be pushed, and for there to be a daily block of time without talking, texting or posting. But. That’s. Me. I’d also include playing with my dog and reading a book in the rest category.

Please, let’s all get enough sleep. Please, let’s all do a job that brings satisfaction (and how awful if your 40 or 80-hour work week is only drudgery or mostly demeaning or both).

Get some rest, Jesus encouraged. The disciples didn’t. Not then. But I never forget Jesus spent alone time in prayer, shared a table with ne’er-do-wells like you and me and took time for worship.

Rest is balance. It’s sweat for some and silence for others. It’s a lunch with a friend and a walk around the block with your dog.

Each week, in my job with a hospice, I call folks who’ve had a parent or spouse or friend die. Yesterday, I contacted one of the persons on my bereavement list that also happened to be a fellow employee. A significant person in her life had died almost a year ago, cared for by the very hospice she works for.

Like most hospice staff, she intimately knew how precious each moment was, how a next day was not a guarantee.

She answered the phone.

I said, “Just wanted to check-in with you. Next month will be the one year anniversary of __________’s death.”

She knew that. And thanked me. In the same breath, she added, “This last year has been so busy, sometimes I haven’t had time to think, or to remember.”

And then she talked about taking personal time, maybe close to the one-year anniversary of the death. Time to remember. Time to reflect. Time to honor another. Time to . . .

Can I call what she might do a kind of rest? I think so.

Rest underscores a balanced life. Your rest is different than mine. In my faith I always hope to be restless, to want to grow and learn and seek. But balance is essential, and too easily discarded or neglected in our lives. Let me be restless, but also, I pray, help me be rest-full.

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  1. Short on time, but I have one new observation. Since I graduated, after two years, including last summer and various brakes hard at work on my thesis and such, I have been relatively lazy, to the point of staying awake late and getting up late. Not really insomnia, because once I do fall asleep, perhaps around 4 AM, I have little trouble staying asleep, or close to it. But if I allow myself total freedom, and do not get up at some obscenely late hour, I find I am really far, far more productive with ideas than if I get up with an obviously insufficient amount of sleep. Now, the problem is the lasso my circadian rythms and recalibrate them so they are more in step with the rest of the world.

    PS: Naps don’t work for me. I am incapable of getting any benefit from a nap scheduled to be “so long”. But, if I just sleep until I wake up, there is some passible benefit.

  2. Great inspiration! We need rest. Most of us are sleep deprived.
    we run away from quiet and stillness because we fear what might come up.
    I need to take time to be still in order to write.

    1. Hey Heide! Thanks for your comments. If only we could order up some “quiet and stillness” and guarantee its arrival!

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