Rest Gets No Respect

It is no secret or surprise that sleep deprivation is bad for us. Still, people put on the badge of martyr, order another shot of espresso and shoulder on through fatigue. Fatigue is a badge of honor in our society of over worked, over programmed people. The down-sizing and right sizing of business has simply meant that less people do more work. After school enrichment activities for children translate into more weekend obligations.

About 75 million of us in the US don’t get enough sleep. That’s about one-quarter of the population who drives, operates machinery, makes decisions that effects people’s daily lives, teaches our children, performs surgery; you get the drift. Twenty five percent of us are sleep deprived. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn us that this can lead to a number of chronic illnesses and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. (LA Times, 3-13-12, B1)

What is crazy to me is that even though we know all this, our society as a whole continues to buy the snake oil that more hours equals greater productivity. Study after study debunks this myth. A recent Harvard Medical School study demonstrated that our nation loses more than $63 BILLLION a year due to lack of sleep among workers. (Ibid.) People are seen as widgets and cogs in the machinery we call the economy, but we are more than a piece of the machinery. Our faith teaches us this.  

This is National Sleep Awareness Month. I’d like to claim it as National Sabbath Rest Awareness Month. Busier lifestyles, a 24 hour news and entertainment culture, the lie that doing more work makes us more productive and the ubiquitous presence of technology, from TV to iPad all contribute to our sleepless, restless culture.

Even in the church, there is a tendency to program, program, program. There is this itch we scratch; if we are to be “successful” that means we have a children’s program, a single’s program, a music program, etc. Our society has idolized work and productivity to the point we can’t even recognize what real re-creation is or feels like. What if we were instead the counter cultural presence of do nothing, be still and know that God is God?

Jesus was counter cultural. He honored the Sabbath but didn’t let that keep him from helping someone. Jesus reminded his followers that the Sabbath was made for people, not the other way around. So it is with the economy. The economy exists to serve the welfare of people, not people serve the welfare of the economy.

Do you think you could sit still for 5 minutes without thinking of something you should or could be doing? Could you sit quietly and simply listen for 5 minutes to your heart beating and your body breathing without imagining what is right and wrong with it? Could you stop for just 5 minutes and rest in God, in God’s grace and complete love for you?

The Sabbath was made for us, to remind us that we are not our own. We do not have to struggle and strive every waking minute. We do not have to distract ourselves with mindless entertainment when we are bored. We are made for communion with and care from God, but we have to stop and focus long enough to receive what God has to offer.

I hope you will join me in stopping for at least 5 minutes each day to receive from God. I also hope you will join me in challenging the culture that idolizes the economy over the welfare of the people who it should serve.


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