There are two kinds of people in the world (how often have you heard that??): Those who work to play and those who work.
If you read my blog consistently, you will notice my struggle with work and play, with work and rest.
I’ve come to believe we all have several themes that characterize our lives. These are areas of persistent challenge and growth. We “spiral” around these themes. They can often be framed in terms of competing values. By that I mean certain preferences we naturally pursue compete with values we think we should pursue. For example: a task-oriented person wrestles with their need to put more value on relationships. A perfectionist becomes aware of their need to “lighten up” for themselves and others. A relaxed person feels pressure to be more ambitious. Can you identify some of your life themes?
So back to my theme of work and rest. I have great energy spread over many interests. Combine that with a strong sense of responsibility, a desire to make meaningful contributions to others’ lives, and a commitment to being a faithful steward, and you have one of the recipes for a workaholic.
This is a significant spiritual problem because over-work (work addiction) can easily lead to problems such as self-reliance, neglecting relationships, ignoring self-care, and eventually to spiritual numbness and burnout.
So how do we gain God’s rhythm and balance for our lives?
For me, it began by seeing the essential value of rest, beginning with the Sabbath principle in Genesis 2: 2-3.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
One of my problems was that I had a wrong concept about rest and recreation. Writing in my journal in 1980 was the first time I wrote the pun “wreck-reation.” I don’t remember having seen or heard that pun anywhere else. I wrote it because it captured my problem with the common idea about recreation. Much of what people called “recreation” was just “wreck-reation”—it left them exhausted and stressed. They were not refreshed and renewed. They needed a vacation from their vacation.
As I reflected on God’s command to rest, however, I saw the inherent message in the word “recreation” as “re-creation.” Lights went on. Re-creation is a biblical mandate—and a blessing. The amazing news of Genesis 2 and the 10 Commandments and all of scripture is that God blesses us with rest (see Matthew 11:28-30 for Jesus’ definitive invitation).
My natural tendency is the attitude described by Tim Hansel in his book title, When I Relax, I Feel Guilty. But now I remind myself, “When I relax, I am honoring the Lord and loving myself.”
In Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon gave some great advice to young ministers that applies to all of us. Writing before the days of mechanized farm equipment, the mower is harvesting grain in the fields by hand using only a scythe:
Look at the mower in the summer’s day. With so much to cut down before the sun sets, he pauses in his labor. Is he a sluggard? He looks for a stone and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink. He’s sharpening his blade. Is that idle music? Is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mown while he was ringing out those notes on his blade. But he is sharpening his tool. And he will do far more, when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him.
Even thus a little pause prepares the mind for greater service in a good cause. Fishermen must mend their nets and we must, every now and then, repair our mental states and set our machinery in order for future service. It is wisdom to take occasional furloughs. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.
There’s a God-given need and God-given invitation to stop, to rest, to tend ourselves.
Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade (Ecclesiastes 10:10 NLT).
Re-creation is God’s plan to renew us and to restore us so we can live with joy and energy for God’s glory.