The Productivity of Rest
I stir from my slumber embracing the feathered pillow cradling my face, momentarily resisting my internal alarm clock before rising at 4:30 a.m. to share with you the productivity of rest. In a culture driven by consumerism and success, we’ve forgotten how to Sunday.
Most people I know aren’t trying to climb corporate ladders or become CEOs of large companies; they’re just trying to survive and give their family a quality life. Often this includes both parents working, children in school, extracurricular activities, sports, social events, and for some families, church.
As a culture, we idolize busyness, success, style, technology. Driven by economics and comparisons, our land is tired, our lives harried. Sometimes, we intentionally stay busy to avoid the confrontation quietness affords. Even healthy activities like community activism and exercise can become a way of escapism, barriers to the rest our bodies were designed to need.
Scripture tells us we are created in the image of God. The Creator of the universe, who spoke galaxies into existence and created atoms and molecules, looked upon His creation and called it good. Then He rested.
The pattern of rest continues in the Old Testament observation of jubilee. Every seventh-year farmers were to let the land rest by not planting crops. Following this pattern, every fiftieth year was a Year of Jubilee where the land rested, debts were canceled, and people returned to their homelands.
The third of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
Jesus ministered to thousands then retreated to “be alone with His Father.”
In the faith tradition of my childhood, Sundays were strictly observed for worship and rest. Sunday lunches, dinners we called them, were prepared in advance so only minimal post-church work was needed to sit down together for the biggest family meal of the week. Sunday suppers were popcorn, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and home-canned grape juice that again needed little to no preparation. We enjoyed toned-down recreational activities such as a pick-up game of catch but nothing organized. As agrarian folk, we performed only the most basic farming chores, but to speak of business or to work “unnecessarily” on Sundays was considered improper.
The Blue Law, which survived from 1610-1960 with few changes, prohibited businesses from being open for shopping and consumerism on Sundays. It was originally designed to protect the first day of the week as a day of church-going and family outings. During the Revolutionary War, it evolved to the more secular purpose of providing a common day of rest “to prevent the physical and moral debasement which comes from uninterrupted labor.”
Politics and business were never discussed from the plain wooden pulpits in our houses of worship, but I clearly remember the somber September day in 1988 where I sat as a youth on the slatted wooden benches as the minister grieved the overturning of the Blue Law in my home state of Virginia. This change, he said, would perpetuate our consumerism and greed. I’m sure he didn’t realize in that moment just how right he would be.
Within twenty years, we not only have nearly every business opened on Sundays, but many organized sports are scheduled all weekend long. The idea of a common day of rest, even for secular purposes, is foreign to most of our children.
Relearning How to Sunday
But health professionals, counselors, and businesses are realizing the effects this fast-paced lifestyle has on our productivity. Research shows that daily breaks and power naps increase productivity, and time away from work and unplugged increases the overall health and well-being of employees.
At Inc.com, Head Coach Rhett Power gives twelve scientific reasons rest is important. His article goes into greater depth for each category and is worth a read.
- Time out reduces stress.
- Time out gives you a chance to move.
- Completely divesting from your work on a regular basis reduces inflammation and the risk of heart disease.
- Getting away from work boosts your immune system.
- Speaking of sleep, you’ll do it better during your time out of work.
- Your active time off adds years to your life.
- Taking regular time away from work restores mental energy.
- When you take time out for yourself, you’re more creative.
- You’re also more productive when you take time out from work.
- You’ll focus better at work if you take your weekly rejuvenation time.
- Your day off improves short term memory.
- With regular time away, you might even love your job again.
For homeschooling parents, setting aside this time to relax and rejuvenate can be particularly challenging. We might have recreational and restful times as families, but turning off “school-mode” can be difficult, especially if your method is one that approaches all life as learning opportunities. Time completely alone and uninterrupted has to be intentional.
Even with all this head knowledge, I forget to incorporate rest into the rhythms of my life. A few Sundays ago, after I’d spent two intense days without taking a single time-out for myself, I sank into the couch after church and said to the children, “Mommy’s going to take ten minutes to rest, then I’ll get up and do something productive.”
I felt convicted in that moment about the productivity of rest. I used to be a champion at Sabbath rest when I wasn’t the one making the choices. In my childhood home, Sunday worship, rest, and rejuvenation weren’t optional. Somewhere in my adult life, I’d forgotten how to Sunday. Perhaps I’m not working, but I forget to schedule pauses in my calendar. Sometimes there are unavoidable moments like the busy weekend I just had, but taking time to intentionally rest afterward becomes that much more vital to my overall productivity and quality of life. Rest is productive.
In my striving and doing and surviving, I hear the call of Jesus who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
May our resting and our labors be productive for the Kingdom as we shepherd our families in a consumeristic and toil-driven culture. May we teach our children where to go to find true rest for their souls.
Memoirist Regina Cyzick Harlow was in the Old Order Horse and Buggy Mennonite church and allowed only a formal eighth-grade education. She landed her first paid writing gig at the Daily News~Record in Harrisonburg, VA with just the general education diploma she earned as a young adult. She and her family live and homeschool in Virginia.
Regina co-founded the Sadie Rose Foundation with her husband, a non-profit organization providing peer support for those grieving the death of a child. There she has spent twelve years creating newsletter content and workshops, empowering grievers to more clearly communicate their suffering and helping supporters become better friends. She manages the family website at www.theharlowhearth.com.