Rhythms of Work and Rest

Often when we approach work and rest, we approach it from the standpoint that if we work really hard then we earn time to rest. What if it’s actually the other way around? What if we rest so that our bodies have the ability to work?

Ruth Haley Barton in her book Sacred Rhythms says, “If we do not allow for rhythms of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our sabbath - our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attacks, our accidents create Sabbath for us.”

Rest is just as important, if not more important, that work. Without proper rest our bodies will become run down. I know I have worked myself to the point of sickness when I haven’t allowed my body the rest it needs. Rest is not a luxury in our lives, it’s a necessity. Taking time to replenish ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally is a way of caring for our bodies so we are able to do the work we do. 

When I first read the quote above, I was reminded how much work dictates our lives. So much of our week is dedicated to the places we work, and at times that work also seeps into time with our families and friends. Learning to bring balance to work and rhythm is difficult. When I worked as a chaplain, I began a rhythm of letting go at the end of each work day. I would let go of the people in my care and give them to the Spirit to watch over them. I often would do this while standing outside the hospital or the home of the last patient I would see that day. This was one way I could try to let go of my work, so I could enter into a space of rest. At times I still struggled with this, but my desire was to build rhythms that could bring balance to my work and rest. 

We were not created to constantly be in work mode. We’re not like the Energizer Bunny who has batteries that keep going. We have to slow down. We have to stop. We have to take rest from the busyness of our lives. 

Creating rhythms of rest will be different for each of us. Take a moment to define what work is for you. Then ask yourself what is restful. Spend a moment meditating on these questions. Observe any thoughts that come to your mind, notice any physical sensations in your body, and begin to explore your rhythms of work and rest.