Our facilities manager described me as being pale. Our HR manager detected some exaggeration, “Pale? He’s black. How is it that he looked pale?” Our facilities manager reiterated, “He was pale.”
I don’t doubt her because that is how horrible I felt that day. Two days after Christmas I went into work and lasted one hour before I had to leave. On my way out the Senior Pastor took one glimpse at me and told me to go home. I think I had just enough energy to drive home and no more. Thankfully I made it home and slept pretty much the rest of the day, and much of the next. Considering that the mother of all flus had been going around I was a little paranoid and checked my symptoms on WebMD. I discovered that in all likelihood I was suffering from fatigue, which considering what the past two months had been like I wasn’t surprised in the least.
My youth ministry professor used to refer to Leviticus 23 as the “Party and Rest or Die” commands of the Old Testament. It’s ironic that the same God that gets the rap of being a cosmic killjoy and a general party pooper pretty much commands that we party and rest regularly. Even to this day God appointing times of rest and celebration is probably the most overlooked commands in the entire Bible, by believers and skeptics alike. These commands are not controversial or hot topics because they are not followed by or in the same breath as the phrases we find numerous times in the book of Leviticus, “shall be put to death” or “is an abomination”. I’m here to tell you that on December 27th 2012 I felt like I was being put to death and I felt like I was an abomination. Not to say that God was making me feel that way as a form of punishment, discipline, or to get my attention. However, it got my attention. I needed to be more intentional in getting rest. With a wife undergoing chemo treatments and an energetic two year old I can’t afford to not rest to the point that I hit the wall like that again.
Is Rest a Moral Issue?
For all the precedence that pornography, sex, drugs and apathy towards God take as the main moral issues that face today’s Christian youth, why is rest not one of them? Considering how much experts and sociologists have been saying that today’s teenagers are busier than any generation before them why isn’t rest being treated as a moral issue? Considering that many sociologists are saying that the High School years may well be the busiest time of an individual’s life, shouldn’t the issue and practice of rest be a front burner topic? For our young men who are tracking towards a white-collar industry where “time is money”, long hours is the way of justification, and productivity is their righteousness we can’t treat rest as a side topic. For the young women who are slowly discovering that they are “expected” to be a superwoman, where to be a woman means mastering the to do list, only to be mastered by the to do list, we can’t breeze over this portion of scripture.
Reclaiming Partying and Rest
The importance of and proper practice of partying and resting must be reclaimed. For many teenagers who put in 35-40 hours of school, 15-25 hours of homework, and 10-25 hours of extra-curricular activities a week, they need to learn the discipline of a day of rest now not later. College typically offers them more free time than they know what to do with, and yet doesn’t prepare them for a life in the workforce or running a home. Entering into adulthood without learning how to intentionally rest is to their detriment. Partying by teenagers (and adults) is too often defined by activities that encourage chaos (lack of control and order) impairs the ability to remember, and leads to exhaustion. Youth Pastors need to teach and encourage students how to celebrate properly as opposed to simply instructing them to avoid partying the wrong way. Parents need to instill a rhythm of intentional rest for the family so that it is more natural for teenagers to implement when they become independent.
Here are a couple of tips and thoughts on how to properly party and rest.
1. Running errands and otherwise knocking out things to do is work, not rest.
2. Resting means doing things you enjoy that are relaxing, Things that are rewarding are fulfilling but not restful. Save the rewarding things for the other six days.
3. Day of rest doesn’t have to be the same as the day you go to church, but should still involve reconnecting with God in some manner.
4. Proper rest helps maintain the balance between “man defining his work” and “man being defined by his work”.
5. If you do not rest you will slowly become undone.
6. Proper partying or celebrating allows our present to be informed by the past as opposed to our present being lived in the past.
7. Partying has purpose (typically remembrance), has food, has beverage, and has order. It does not involve disorder (over consumption), destruction, and chaos.
8. The feasts or celebrations of the Old Testament celebrated what God had done, what he was doing, and what he would do.
9. If you do not party and celebrate then life loses meaning.
10. Napping is restful, but rest limited to sleep is incomplete.
11. Partying is fun, but partying hard puts life in jeopardy.