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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rest with Integrity : Work with Integrity

Mmm...I do remember this happening to me once.
There is a correlation between resting well and working well. It's a topic I've covered a few times during my time as the primary preaching pastor of SCC. However, over the past couple weeks preaching about work from Proverbs, I didn't bring it up (except to say: "I'm skipping over this topic."). Rest got the proverbial (pun!) axe primarily because the importance of rest doesn't really show up in Proverbs - other than the foolishness of indulging in too much of it (ie. the Sluggard - Prov. 6:9-11). So I'm reviving it here over the interwebs because last Sunday our case study in Proverbs was about Working with Integrity. Furthermore, rest has a direct correlation upon our ability to work with integrity. Let's look at this correlation and consider its effect on us. 

Created to Rest. God designed us to rest - 1 full day per 7. He Himself "blazed the trail" for this practice prior even to the sin and frustration of work that drives us to need rest. He had just spent 6 full days creating and it wasn't mindless data-entry at a Dell laptop: Day #1: Light & Darkness; Day #2: Sky; Day #3: Land, vegetation, bodies of water; Day #4: Planets & Stars; Day #5: Animals; Day #6: Mankind - all of which, when done, He called "very good" (Gen. 1:31). 

Let's read what happens next in Genesis 2: 

I want to point out two things. First the pattern: Finished-work-done; Rested-work-done; (SABBATH); Rested-work-done. Notice: There is satisfaction at the end of work ("done": "very good") and there is rest preceding the next round of work ("rest"). Both suggest that the time set aside after/before work has a two-fold function:

Rest allows us to both celebrate backward and recharge forward.

This leads to the second thing I wish to point out: There is a full day set apart ("God blessed the seventh day and made it holy" - lit. set it apart) to hammer home the importance of celebrating work done and recharging for work ahead. The author even uses the ordinary word for human work (as opposed for the Hebrew word typically used for divine activity) - suggesting this full day isn't only for God but for all mankind. 

Such a day also helps us celebrate/recharge with respect to the greatest work ever done. The greatest work we can celebrate is the work Jesus Christ did on our behalf - living the perfect life we couldn't and dying the death we deserve. And Christ's work helps us recharge - we can keep going and work freely because His work on the cross has already freed us from trying to justify ourselves through our work. 

When integrity is lacking in our Rest. Integrity isn't about perfection but consistency. We lack integrity then when some part of our life is inconsistent (or consistently different) than the rest of it (eg., how one treats a boss vs. a helper; giving charitably yet finding loopholes to avoid paying government; valuing some people's time but not others who will either 'understand' or are 'aren't quite as important'.). 

Our rest can also lack integrity in two ways: Either not resting at all or overindulging in certain kinds of rest. We easily relate to the former so let me talk more about the latter. Here are some "rests" or "escapes" in which we tend to overindulge during a much needed day off. Staying up too late to Sleep in, Overeating, Over-surfing the internet, Over-watching tv, Overdrinking of alcohol. God hasn't designed us to get the rest we need by overindulgence. And it's more than just a little interesting that scientific research confirms just this - namely, that sleeping in on weekends leads to persistent "jet-lag" like symptoms during the week. The National Sleep Foundation points to overeating at night and the indigestion that results as a major inhibitor to good rest - as does watching tv or scrolling through a mobile device. Arguably the greatest disrupter of getting good rest is overindulgence in alcohol (check out here, here, or here). Alcohol at night consistently prevents a person from getting the REM or deep sleep their body needs. 

A former professor at my seminary, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr., once called REST one of God's most ignored goals for His people, (see also, for example, Hebrews 4). Because we are designed to get rest, we will find ways to get it if we don't get it in the evening or during our day of rest. That's when a failure to rest well begins to effect integrity in our work place. We begin to use work to locate rest.  

Some responses to a failure to rest well: I'll go in late to work. I'll let my work suffer. I'll cut out lunch and all efforts to be social (cutting out opportunities to love neighbor). I'll just copy and paste someone else's work (plagiarism). Since I don't have the time to make all necessary connections and do all the work, I'll find loopholes that will help me maximize my profit for minimal time (steal). I'll overwork with longer hours (others in your life suffer). I'll seek ultimate rest/satisfaction in my work (idolatry - disappointment - frustration). There are probably dozens more examples you can imagine or have even experienced. 

When we don't rest with integrity, we cannot work with integrity.

That means we must rest consistently well. We can't just skip the rest for which we were designed and expect to function as God designed. God anticipates this temptation to skip rest during even our "busy season":  
Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest (Exodus 34:21 - emphasis mine).
Restoring Integrity to our Rest. Here are some suggestions that can help you restore integrity to your rest:

1. Structure your rest. Rev. Tim Keller calls this "avocational rest." An avocation is "something that brings you joy but requires some intentionality and structure to your rest." He suggests planning a day off with these three types of rest.

  • Contemplative Rest. Grab your Bible and journal, write and reflect. Look back on past entries. What is God doing? What is a theme or pattern He is working through your life?
  • Recreational Rest. This means refreshing recreational activities not necessary tough mudder training.  
  • Aesthetic Rest - exposing yourself to works of God's creation you find beautiful. This will likely include outdoor fresh air and beauty (especially in Cayman), but also might include artistic expressions like music, drama, or a visit to our National Gallery.

2. Prepare for your Day of Rest with Mini-Sabbaths.

  • Walk to lunch as much as possible to grab a moment for thanksgiving.
  • Refuse the "working lunch" unless absolutely necessary.
  • I know a friend who incorporates into their workday 2-3 rooftop trips to review something inspirational they read that morning.
  • Turn on a 22 minute episode of Aquanauts (or whatever) not only to finish your checklist but so you can grab a glass of water and sit outside with your Bible. 
  • Have dinner with your family and use it to reflect on back on your day with satisfaction (our family has kept an answered prayer jar at our dinner table).

3. Treat vacations, holidays, and trips as longer Sabbaths - not vacations from Jesus.

4. Take time to do nothing productive but be with Jesus.

  • Jesus did the greatest work to give us maximum rest. 
  • When confronted about what rest should look like, Jesus famously calls himself "the Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28).  Do you remember how that story began, what gave rise to the controversy? The disciples of Jesus walking with their Savior through the grain fields to nowhere in particular and casually picking grains and fruits along the way.