The Art of Rest, or How I Learned to Take Back My Life

Are you as bad at resting as I am? 

I don’t mean rest how people usually mean it. Like when I tell my kids to lay down and rest. I’ve got that down. Given the chance, I can lay down and nap with the best of them. 

I’m talking about rest as a discipline. As a practice. As something that goes beyond merely what I’m doing. Something that is part of who I am. A way of life. 

The unfortunate part is that the more and more I live, the older I get, the more I’m convinced that this way of life is antithetical to the life we live in America in 2016. Rest is not a virtue for us. It’s a weakness. It’s what we choose to do when we could be doing something that matters. Closing the deal, or making the sale, or whatever we could be doing that is more important. 

If you’re anything like me, your typical day looks like some form of this: wake up, check email, answer the ones that have to be done before you leave for work, shower, get ready, eat breakfast in the car on the way to work, spend all day in meetings, come home, eat dinner with the family, get the kids in bed, and finally collapse onto the couch and get ready to do it all again in the morning. 

Now please hear me, I’m not complaining. I have a great job, a great family, and am blessed enough to live in a gorgeous part of the country and make enough money for my wife to stay home with our girls, so you’ll hear no bellyaching from me. 

But what if there was a better way? What if I could wake up in the morning feeling rested? I don’t mean “I got enough sleep” rested. I mean the “I’m okay with not laying my family on the altar as a sacrifice to the God of doing more” type of rest. 

I don’t do it on purpose, but I do it every day. Every time I tell my kids “just a second” while I fire off an email that could wait until they go to bed, I am telling them that work is more important. Every time I’m out to dinner with my wife and compulsively have to check my work email on a weekend, while my beautiful wife is sitting across the table from me, I am telling her that doing more is more important than she is. 

A few months ago, I made a resolution. It wasn’t a huge one for most people, but for me, it was monumental, and continues to be a challenge, but one that is paying off. 

I deleted all social media apps from my phone. 

As someone who has wasted countless hours on Twitter & Facebook, this was tough for me. Watching that app icon trembling in fear as I clicked on the little x, I hesitated. It felt like I was deleting a part of me. I had talked about it with my wife and resolved to only be on social media after the kids went to sleep at night, or occasionally checking it at work (my employer is awesome.) At first, I felt like I was missing everything. What was happening on Twitter? What news was I missing? What latest spat was I not a part of? 

But something happened as the weeks progressed. I stopped caring. I would sit down at my laptop at night, open it to Twitter, scroll for five minutes, and close my computer, bored out of my mind. It just didn’t hold the same appeal. It was like I had rewired the way my brain worked. 

For the first time in months, maybe even years, I felt truly present with my family. I felt like I was seeing them. I felt like I was slowly becoming the dad and husband I knew I could be. It was, and is, a slow process, but for me, it was working. 

Maybe you have the self discipline that I so obviously lack. Maybe for you, the push notification doesn’t draw you in like it does me. I’m jealous of you, but happy for you. But we all have something. Something that begs for our attention. Something that whispers in our ear, “your family will understand, it’s not that big of a deal.” 

Maybe it’s work, maybe it’s shopping, maybe it’s television, maybe it’s staying busy with house projects. I have no idea what your thing is, but I know that it’s there. I know it feels impossible to beat, but I know that you can beat it. I know that you can stand up and proclaim that your life is far too important to be ruled by something that ultimately offers so little. 

Will you stand with me? Will you look busy in the face and give it the finger? Will you pledge to turn the work email off when you get home? Or put the phone away? Or delete the app, or block the website, or whatever it is that you need to do? 

My life was being lived without me, and I wasn’t okay with it. I had enough. So I took it back, and I’m still taking it back. Will you take your life back? You’ll be glad that you did.