I had the chance to catch up with a former classmate several weeks ago, and he reminded me of a simple, yet powerful, distinction.
He lives in a big city and works a part-time job in an office. He shared that he regularly hears his coworkers pining for the weekend: they work Monday to Friday so that they can do whatever they want on Saturday and Sunday.
My friend reminded me that such people have it all wrong. If we are working so that we can rest, we’ve got it completely backwards.
We do not work to rest; we rest so that we can go back to work.
Does a sprinter run a 100 yard dash with the goal of being able to take several minutes of deep breaths when he’s done? Certainly not; he catches his breath so that he can go out and run another 100 yards, and another, and another.
Does a farmer till soil, plant seed, and harvest his crop so that he can sit down at the end of the day to rest his aching muscles? Certainly not; he relaxes his body for a few hours so that he can continue on in the morning with enough physical stamina to till, toil, and harvest once again.
Does a truck driver haul a full load hundreds of miles so that he can finally close his eyes without violating the rules of the Department of Transportation? Certainly not; he pulls over to rest so that he can continue on for hundreds of more miles the very next day.
So why do our first thoughts on Monday morning turn to our Friday night plans? Why do we begin our workweek with the aim being 48 hours of reward for our 40, 50, or 60 hours of labor? It seems that we tend to operate from a sense of entitlement of rest rather than eagerness to work.
A proper orientation about work and rest would seem to be this: we want to work well, to be effective in our job, to serve with excellence–but we can’t keep going non-stop forever. At some point, we have to pause, to catch our breath, to close our eyes, to rest our aching bodies, so that we can go back to work again at full capacity.
Do we achieve reward through our labors? Many do get some form of salary. Maybe we accrue some extended vacation time. Or a Christmas bonus.
But we have often turned the notion of reward into the aim of our labors. We work for the time when we don’t have to work.
We give 5 days, and get back 2. That’s the worst investment scheme imaginable–a net 60% loss every week. Each day, we’re giving up far more than we’re getting back. Unless we look at the whole situation differently.
If we believe in the work that we’ve been given, if we believe that our labor is worthwhile, then we get the opportunity to invest wholeheartedly in it for 5 or 6 days a week, and we only have to pause for 1 day. That rest doesn’t become the aim of our lives, but it becomes the mechanism by which we can continue to give ourselves to our occupation. We may even be afforded the privileged pleasure of engaging in a few hobbies at the same time.
Of course, if we don’t value our work, if we don’t see our labors as being divine assignments, then the only justification for our expenditure of energy is the perceived reprieve that we receive at the end of each workweek. We live for the weekends, rather than for the week-beginnings.
It seems to be that we find ourselves, as a culture, under arrest to the notion of rest. We want play time, freedom, leisure, rest–and we will work ourselves like mad to feel qualified for it and to acquire the resources to engage in it.
Or, we fall under arrest in a different way: totally ignoring our need for rest, and pushing ourselves forward non-stop without a pause–though often with the hope that at some point down the road, we will achieve the easy life of rest that we are ultimately yearning for.
God has promised us rest (Heb 4:8-11) and commanded it (Deut 5:12-15)–we don’t have to chase after it. He expects us to take enough so that we can continue to live and work according to His calling. But just as God did not spend 6 days creating just so that He could take a cosmic vacation, we are to labor and then rest, so that we can be faithful and obedient servants.
Has the notion of rest arrested you? Has the yearning for the weekend narrowed your vision of the possibilities for the workweek? Have you become entangled in the yearning for a lifetime of comfort and so tossed aside your regular need to stop and catch your breath? Or, are you blessedly constrained both to work and to rest, desiring to labor with excellence, and accepting a regular period of pause so that you can continue with renewed vigor on a weekly basis?
I’m working on changing my own perspective about work. I want to keep good habits of rest, but to wholly invest myself in the things that I’ve been given to do. Maybe someday that will include blogging, but for now: back to work.