Work. Rest. Rhythm.

The following is an excerpt from Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy – which I heartily commend to you. In this passage he observes that our increasingly bustling culture is also an increasingly blurred culture, without distinction between work and rest, without rhythm. And he offers a helpful analogy for understanding what our lives ought to be like, namely, a track workout.

“Many of us are less busy than we think, but life feels constantly overwhelming because our days and weeks and years have no rhythm. As we saw in the previous chapter, one of the dangers of technology is that work and rest blend together in a confusing mush. We never quite leave work when we’re at home, so the next day we have a hard time getting back to work when we’re at work. We have no routine, no order to our days. We are never completely ‘on’ and never totally ‘off.’ So we dwadle on YouTube for twenty minutes at the office and then catch up on e-mails for forty minutes in front of the TV at home. Perhaps this arrangement works for some employers and may feel freeing for many employees. But over time most of us work less effectively, whether it’s in the home or out of the home, and find our work less enjoyable when there is no regular, concentrated, deliberate break…

People like to say life is a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s actually more like a track workout. We run hard and then rest hard. We charge a hill and then chug some Gatorade. We do some stairs, then a few 400s. In between, we rest. Without it, we’d never finish the workout. If we want to keep going, we have to learn how to stop. Just like the Israelites had in their calendar, we need downtime each day, and a respite each week, and seasons of refreshment throughout the year. We can’t run incessantly and expect to run very well.

We may think that more work is the answer to our decreasing drive and goldfish-like attention span, but rest is often the antidote we really need. Sometimes the best preparation is a wandering, soul-enriching procrastination. Take a nap, throw a Frisbee, sing a song, and then write the paper. The land won’t produce a harvest if it never lies fallow. We can’t be ‘all in’ all the time. Just think of the Israelites calendar. It had times for feasting and times for fasting. It was for their piety and their productivity that God put them on a predictable pattern filled with daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, annual, and multiyear rhythms.

Which is why it’s so concerning that our lives are getting more and more rhythm-less. We don’t have healthy routines. We can’t keep our feasting and fasting apart. Evening and morning have lost their feel. Sunday has lost its significance. Everything is blurred together. The faucet is a constant drip. Life becomes a malaise, until we can’t take any more and spiral into illness, burnout, or depression.”

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