My first year out of graduate school, I remember that I worked incredibly long hours at my job working as a Residence Director. I would get up early, hit the office, handle problems all day, talk to students, attend programs, talk to students in the evening, finally get a chance to talk to my boo at the time (he became my husband), and I wouldn’t get to sleep until well after midnight most nights of the week. I got maybe 6 hours of sleep a night. I remember I kept that up for a really long time, and basically I had adapted to that lifestyle over time. Tragically, I also remember the day that I had the rudest awakening of my life. It was kind of like an earthquake for me, and the major aftershock soon followed.
On that day, I had gotten up at like 5:30 am to run around campus with some of my coworkers to put up some balloons for an event we were having throughout the day. I remember being so exhausted, but my mindset was “You gotta handle the business!” So, that whole day was a complete rush. We were setting up for this event, dragging equipment and materials across campus, making sure our location was set up properly. I ended up having to take a coworker to downtown Atlanta during rush hour because she forgot to pick up something. I then had to get back change clothes to more appropriate attire, do my hair, and rush over. And when I got to the event, we still had some things that needed to get done. So I was rushing to finish the setup, and I remember I cut my hand really well with some glass, and at the moment, I looked down, and I saw all this blood and that my hand was shaking. So, I told a coworker, and I walked out trying to find something to stop the blood, and I started hyperventilating. And for some reason unknown to me, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I started shaking all over. I knew something wasn’t right, and I started crying. I was crying because I didn’t feel right but also because I didn’t finish my work, and we were behind with our event. It was just overwhelming. I tried to go back into the event, but I couldn’t get my breathing under control, so I ended up having to leave and go lay down in my apartment. I called up the boo, and he definitely wasn’t pleased. After about a hour or so, my body finally started calming down. Now, the major aftershock occurred several weeks later when I was traveling back home to Virginia. I wasn’t feeling well, but after being home several days, it felt like my throat was closing up. The first trip to the doctor revealed that I had strep throat, an upper respiratory infection, and an ear infection in both ears. My doctor, after hearing about the episode I had earlier, informed me that I had an anxiety attack and prescribed anxiety medication for me at the age of 23.
That experience for me was so startling and life-changing that I remember every moment of it now. My mind said that I handled pressure exceptionally well and that I can keep pace forever if I had to, but my body basically decided to shut down on me when I needed it most. And apparently, the only way for me to keep up what I had been doing for years was to take anxiety medication occasionally. Well, I’m happy to say that today (about 3 ½ years later), I never took that anxiety medication because I learned from that incident, re-prioritized my life, and learned to rest.
The world today does not emphasis rest really to any young person or adult. A lot of people my age would get up early, work all day, squeeze a gym workout in there, hang out late into the night, catch maybe 5 hours of sleep and repeat. The rest comes when you go on vacation, but even then, you rush to be able to do all the things that you want to do while on vacation. Even a lot of children today don’t rest like they should. A lot of young parents don’t see the need for rest, so they drag their kids with them all day long, wake them up when they have some place they want to be, let them stay up late because “they aren’t sleepy”, and a lot of other things that don’t promote good rest. But I’ll briefly write of my personal growth with rest since that unforgettable day 3 ½ years ago.
After that incident, I went back to work with the mindset that I have to make myself a priority in my life. The fact is: there will always be some kind of work to do, and if something happened to me, I’m sure someone else will get it done. Therefore, I needed to calm down how I viewed my work. I gave myself a cut-off time in the day for my work. If I didn’t finish by 6 pm, then it would just wait until the next morning. I ended conversations with students early, and I allowed myself to get dinner and not be rushed through it just to continue talking to people. I even started to give myself some quiet, personal time in the evening before I talked to my boo so that I could internally quiet myself, reflect, and have a personal moment to relax. Then I tried to make sure that I got off the phone at a decent hour at night that would allow me to have a good night’s rest. Now, all of these things worked wonderfully, and they helped me tremendously. It also helped that I had coworkers who got on me if I was in the office past a certain hour, or who would call me up and make me meet them for dinner. They were great at keeping me accountable.
Fast-forwarding, when I got married last year and found out we were going to have a baby, the issue of rest came up even more. Whereas, before I was willingly adjusting my personal life to have more rest, then my body was forcing me to go lay down a lot more often then I wanted. Considering I was starting a new job, I had a lot of guilt about not being able to participate with my coworkers, staff, and cohort as much as I wanted. I did try to explain myself to people, but I realized quickly that they honestly had very little to no basis of understanding what I was dealing with because none of them had kids. So, quietly I accepted the guilt and made myself rest. Unfortunately, I didn’t rest enough because I had some really random problems during my third trimester, and it did affect my baby. But thankfully, she’s doing wonderfully these days, and I’ve learned my lesson.
So what exactly did I learn over all this time?
Well first, my husband and I were convicted over the inconsistency in which we obeyed God’s Word. God gave us, as His children, the Sabbath today to rest from all our work. In all honesty, this wasn’t something we took seriously. Now, we did get up and go to church, and we even took naps after church. But we were both hard at work that afternoon and evening, well into the night. So, after being convicted, we agreed not to work on Sundays. Let me tell you, that was a really hard adjustment because it’s so natural for us to keep going and going and going. But, we have been really blessed by being obedient. Just to know that after a week, there will be one day where we aren’t doing anything is just nice to look forward to. So we learned that God intentionally gives us commands to obey for our own good. God knows that the world will just keep on working and working nonstop, but for our own good, He commands us to take one day and make it holy to Him (that is, make the day different and unique to Him in that we don’t do what we normally do every other day of the week, but rest instead).
The second thing that I learned is that not resting is really ingrained in us from infancy. When she was younger, I remember it felt like my daughter barely slept at all. She woke up constantly, refused to sleep on her back (even with us letting her “cry it out”), and she only fell asleep after we rocked her for a really long time. Even then, if we laid her down to soon, she would wake back up, and we would have to start all over. By around four months, she would sleep for maybe 4 hours, wake up for an 1 ½ hours, go back to sleep for maybe 2-3 hours, and then would stay awake and only take 30 minute naps every 1 ½ hours. Trust me, those were some incredibly long days. A friend blessed me with an incredible back called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. The book basically explains how, as a parent, you must recognize the importance of rest for your child and force your child to rest because otherwise they won’t, and it will be to their own hurt later on. This was definitely a new idea for me because I thought our bodies naturally tell us when they are tired, but I quickly realized that we are often not aware of the cues that I body does send us. But more than that, I learned that you must train your body to rest.
The third thing that I learned is that it is worth teaching the importance of rest at a young age. My daughter (now 7 months) doesn’t protest her naps or going to sleep at bedtime any more. It appears that she actually looks forward to that time, and I tell her even now why it’s important that we all rest. Making sure that I am doing that for her causes me to always be aware of myself, and I am still resting a lot better now than I did before I got married. My hope and prayer is that she keeps the importance of rest in her mind as she grows up and when she leaves our home, it is still something that she remembers.
All in all, I appreciate the work of God in my life concerning this area of rest. Over the years, I have grown so much less anxious. I don’t worry and get stressed out like I used to. I’m in a much better mood most days, and I don’t have mood swings even during those special times of the month. Even when my daughter is acting out of sorts, I am so much more patient with her than I would have ever been. All in all, I’m just not high-strung anymore, and I really like being happy and pleasant most days. I’m sure my husband also appreciates my consistent demeanor too because he doesn’t have to come home from work and guess what kind of mood I’m in.
So, from all of this, I hope that, if you haven’t, you take a good look at yourself and your life. If you’re not resting a lot, I hope that you reconsider how important it is for you. If you’re a Christian, I really hope that you reexamine the Scriptures on this topic, and seek God for grace and to work this out in your life so that you can be obedient to Him in all things. And if you’re a parent, I really hope you consider how important it is to teach this and model this for your children from a very early age. Take care of yourselves!!!
Some verses to consider:
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:12-15
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” – Psalm 127:2
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
“For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” – Hebrews 4:4-11
From these verses you see that rest is a gift from God. God gave His people this gift because they worked nonstop as slaves. We aren’t slaves today in the natural sense, but we are slaves to sin. As a child of God, knowing that He has redeemed you from the bondage and slavery of sin, we have an awesome opportunity to accept the gift of rest that He has given us. On a Sabbath day, we can remember the life that God has brought us from, reflect on His goodness to us, and remember to faithfully look forward to the eternal rest that we have as an inheritance in Christ Jesus.