Sleep. A lot of us has a love/hate relationship with it. Some kids (and teens, and adults) love to stay in bed until noon. Some kids (and teens, and adults) don’t want to sleep until it’s almost morning. We all love to sneak a nap during breaks, during class, during work, during travels, during church sermons, during speeches, during movies. A lot of articles and studies have been done about the wonders, importance and dangers of sleep.
I think sleep is overrated. Overhyped.
Because there is a big difference between sleep and rest.
I tried working as a dining crew at a certain fastfood chain, a broken schedule from opening hours until 11AM, then 5PM until closing hours. In between, I had my classes. I didn’t last; in less than three months, my body just couldn’t keep up. I had decent sleep: by 11PM, I’d instantly fall asleep as soon as I arrive home and hit the bed. By 530AM or later, I’d be awake to go about the routine. You’d probably say six hours of sleep should be decent enough, and it should be. But those six unconscious hours, I was still working inside the dreams, still cramming for schoolwork. By the time I wake up, I was even more tired than before I slept. Several fevers later, I decided to quit.
There were several weeks I spent near-sleepless as we fervently prepare for some big events. Weeks filled with pressures, stress, disagreements, and the usual team conflicts. But even in our sleep-deprived states, there’s a sense of peace that no empirical assurance can instill. Short offhand conversations often would refresh us, enabling us to face our tasks with renewed vigor. Fatigue both physical, emotional and mental would subside as soon as we smile at each other and wordlessly communicate encouragement. Sleep no longer was a craving, but a conclusion to a celebration.
I’m not sure if I should still define sleep— I mean, after all, we all do that. Some sleep a lot, some sleep less. Some sleep comfortably, others awkwardly. Some snore, some sleeptalk, some sleepwalk. Sleep comes in various degrees, and sleep comes with varied positions. But rest? A lot of us have different notions and understanding of it, and the rest are still at a loss of what it really means.
Yes, what is rest?
The dictionary gives us the following definitions:
- cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength (ex. he needed to rest after the feverish activity)
- be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position (ex. her elbow was resting on the arm of the sofa)
- be based on; depend on (ex. the country’s security rested on its alliances)
- an instance or period of resting: you look as though you need a rest (ex. a couple of days of complete rest)
- in music, an interval of silence of a specified duration
- an object that is used to support something (ex. a shoulder rest)
- the remaining part of something (ex. what do you want to do for the rest of your life?)
- remain or be left in a specified condition (ex. you can rest assured she will do everything she can)
But I like best the original Latin word for it — restare which means ‘remain’, from re- ‘back’ + stare ‘to stand’. Or in my own simple understanding, “to stand back.”
As a kid, I was always curious about the creation story, how God rested on the seventh day. I always imagined Him being so tired, so He just slept for a whole day. But, He is God! He is Almighty, All-Powerful! How can He ever get tired?
Looking back, I realized the error was in us— we’ve become so accustomed to pushing ourselves too hard: studying until we can’t read or think anymore, working as if our life depended on it, making too many deadlines and/or commitments then complaining how we need badly need a vacation or a break.
We have forgotten that wonderful discipline of stepping out, standing back.
God wasn’t tired with creation after six days; He took a break to simply enjoy what He had done. And we should, too.
I think it’s quite the tragedy of our time: we work so hard without enjoying what we’ve worked for— not just the earnings, the benefits, but the mere accomplishment of what we’ve done. When was the last time you checked your school assignment and smiled at your progress? When was the last time you reviewed your email, your work deadline — and confidently hit SEND knowing that you have done a good work? When was the last time you spend some time with your family at the end of the day, tell about your day and simply be thankful for all that happened?
Sure, sleep’s awesome. But no matter how much we sleep, it will never be enough— not until our eternal sleep anyway. Sleep is its own reward— or at least, for our frail physical body. But rest is something we need to enjoy everyday, every moment, during our most stressful moments as much as in our most idle times. Believe me, being idle can be as tiring as being busy.
Rest can be done in many ways— spending time alone, reading, listening to music, being with people who care about you, cooking, helping someone, having that much-delayed conversation, crying, exercising, and so on. Don’t limit your rest to mere sleeping your life away! We need to rediscover rest in every way: be it with the daily toil in our respective workplaces, or the seemingly endless drone of the classroom lessons and academic requirements, or even in the silent struggles within us— that relentless constructions and renovations inside our mind, heart and soul.
We need to decide our rest, a kind of rest that Christ has willingly and generously offered us:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” — Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
There’s a long weekend coming, and for some of us— plans may have already been made. I sincerely hope and pray that you will enjoy your rest. But for those of us who are still burdened, don’t lose hope. Let’s cast our cares on Him, stand back and rest. Let’s do what’s required of us, then trust God with the rest.
Have a great weekend!