So, it turns out that if Michael Jackson hadn’t died from an overdose, the lack of real sleep probably would have killed him. Makes you want to get quality REM that much more, doesn’t it?
In the same way that our bodies cannot thrive or even survive without deep sleep, our souls cannot thrive or survive without deep rest.
We need restorative rest, not just surface rest. We need the kind of rest that propels us into the normal routines of life, full of life. We’ve gotten so used to “trickle charging” in our culture: a little sleep here, a little downtime there, but rarely fully recharged, rarely fully rested. We rush into rest like it’s another thing to check off our list, or collapse into rest on the weekend like we’ve been running a marathon and forgot to hydrate along the way.
We shortchange ourselves by overworking, underresting (why is this not a real word?), striving for the wrong things, and believing lies about what gives us real meaning and significance.
Deep, restorative rest happens at a soul level. It’s not something that’s manufactured through the senses, although the senses can facilitate it. It happens in simple but incredibly profound ways – a good meal with friends, a quiet walk in the woods, laughing till it hurts, playing with our kids, reading a good book, watching a movie or listening to a song that touches you on a deep level, going on an adventure, getting your house in order because you want to not because you have to, etc. It’s not ultimately about what’s happening externally but about what’s happening internally.
Surface rest is like fast food; you get the experience of a real meal without the nutrition. It leaves you feeling “blah”.
Of course, we have a model for rest in the Scriptures: it’s called Sabbath. But beyond that we have the source of rest – the Person of rest – Jesus Christ. He is the one whose “yoke is easy and burden is light” (Matthew 11). He is the one who “lets us rest in green meadows, leads us beside peaceful streams, and renews our strength” (Psalm 23).
When we try to lead ourselves into rest we ultimately fail, because true rest is found through following God’s lead. He knows what we need and loves to provide it.
I have often pursued surface rest instead of restorative rest – going to things such as food and entertainment for life instead of going to God with my weariness and then experiencing true renewal as he directs me onward.
Going to God for rest requires trust and humility. It means letting go of the notion that we are God – capable of being our own renewable source of energy. It means being open to being blessed in ways we know we don’t deserve but we desperately need.
Married couples that never get away together can slowly lose the spark and become mere business partners in the management of the family enterprise. Vegging in front of the TV at night is not the same as truly connecting.
We need times that are set aside for real rest. Not because our calendars or culture demand it, but because our souls desperately need it. We are not robots created to produce as much as possible. We are eternal beings meant to experience Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. In essence: God. And as we go to Him, we find real rest for our souls.