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February 10, 2009

BBC 3: Rest - Introduction

33667136-6I love this chapter of A Good Life. The subject is rest. Rest is not something I have ever been particularly good at. Whatever internal mechanism human beings have that cause them to recognize that they are fatigued is absent in me. I work until I collapse. In fact, I often work past collapse and when I finally begin to shut down, I am unaware and surprised to find that my body and soul are not cooperating any longer. I have experienced this cycle too many times. And it is more than physical, just as we are more than physical. It is a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual reality.

I am now trying to be constantly aware of what I am doing in my body and what my activity costs me. Because my body won't tell me where I am - or maybe more accurately - because I have not learned how to listen to my body and recognize the language of limitation, I have had to create external structures to help me "know" that I am tired. I have to schedule times of recovery that correspond to the times of work, rhythms of engagement and disengagement. In this I am seeing progress in my life.

I am finite. So are you. Rest is an acceptance of our finitude, an acknowledgement that we are creatures who have limitations that must be honored. In the epigraph to this chapter, Benson quotes Benedict on this reality that many, if not all, of us come up against.

"Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die. Do not show too great a concern for the fleeting and temporal things of this world. One must not be excitable, anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous, or over-suspicious. Such people are never at rest."

Be daily reminded that we are going to die. Let that reality temper the living of our days. It reminds me of a passage from Psalm 90 I read last week.

You turn men back to dust,
saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."

For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning-

though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered...

The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom
(vv. 3-6, 10-12).

Rest is an acknowledgment of our creatureliness. It is orientation of humility towards God and ourselves - and according to Benedict, a way of loving others.

"All things are to be done with moderation on account of the fainthearted. Nothing is so inconsistent with the life of any Christian as overindulgence...Arrange everything so that the strong have something to yearn for and so that the weak have nothing to run from."

I don't know about you, but I have never really connected working too much (or in the wrong frame of mind) with overindulgence. I find that to be incredibly challenging. I'm used to thinking about overindulgence in the context of bodily appetites that get out of whack - hunger transformed into gluttony, attraction into lust, for example. Work into...what? Thoughts?

Also, Benedict and Benson are suggesting, in addition to prayer, one of the elements of a good life is a regular practice of rest. Has anyone intentionally developed a rhythm of routine of rest?

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Work into (self imposed) slavery.

As a single, childless adult I had a beautiful routine of rest. As a parent that is a bit harder to come by but I am trying to work into life the routine of Reflection. Perhaps Reflection will turn into rest.

Tim Keel

Ooh - that is a good perspective, Rebekah. Thanks. Work into self-imposed slavery...now the question: will reflection turn into rest? Reflection can be restful. But will it become rest without intention? Good question. See discussion on the next post in the series.


I place two breaks on my calendar at work each day. I work in a corporate environment, so if I don't intentionally step away and disengage, a whole day can go by before I even realize it.

When the weather is nice (and sometimes when it's not), I make a point to get outside and soak up a bit of nature, reminding myself that God made all this beauty around me.

When I adhere to this discipline, it makes for a much more rhythmic day.

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