distraction and rest

I am not the sort of guy who you’d think of as a type A personality.

Maybe more like type H, for hippie-ish.

Or type Z, if Z is the opposite of A.

I don’t think of myself as the sort-of guy who always has to be going, going, going.  I don’t think of myself as the sort of guy who worships the idol of efficiency.  And maybe this was the problem: I’m not on guard in this area, I wasn’t wise enough to watch out.  So I was blind sided.  This whole spiritual battle happened.  And it snuck up on me.

I’m a father of three.  And a Special Education Teacher.  And the director of small groups for my amazing church.  And the leader of a small group.  And I have a second (paying) job in retail.  I have this passion for writing and performing poetry.  And writing prose.   And of course I blog.  And I’m usually reading about three books at the same time.  (Right now it’s The Geography of Bliss, The Protectors, Walking with God, and White Apples and the Taste of Stone.  All are quite good.) 

Due to some intense family stuff, over the last year, I reached this point where I had intense extra family responsibilities.  Very slowly those have been resuming a “normal” level.  For a while they were tremendous.

This last year, my alarm rings at 5:40 on week days.  I have sometimes had two days where after school I went to my retail job and arrived home at 10:30 or even 11:30 at night.  I’ve had maybe an hour in the afternoon to catch my breath and scarf some food.

I’ve had numerous weeks where I’ve gone without a single, full day off.  I’ll work my second job on Saturday or be working on small-group or other church related responsibilities on Sunday.

Please don’t think I’m whining here.  It’s my responsibility for using  discernment in my schedule.  I’ve worked hard at praying about what isn’t a wise, Godly use of my time.  I’ve been able to cut out some.   I haven’t been to a poetry reading in six months, probably.  And for most of the school year, I cut down from reading several books at a time to just 1.  Nonetheless, I continue to work on this.

Furthermore, I’m not bragging either.  I’ve come to the conclusion that God has wanted this season of my life to be busy.  After much prayer and thought I haven’t figured out a way to cut more out of my schedule.   If you’ve shown the discipline to lead a more focused life, you should be bragging, not me.

I just say all this to establish a simple fact:

I’m a busy guy with lots of stuff on his plate.

And when the school year ended this year, you’d think I would have rejoiced.  There have been times I have longed desperately for a little relief in the demands on my time.  In June, a couple weeks back, I got one.

And it was brutal!

I can only describe it as a spiritual battle that happened next.  I was grumpy and depressed and angry.  The worst part was how worthless I felt.  Like such a slacker.  Sitting on the other side of it, I have this clarity about it. 

There were some areas I feel like I’d neglected.  If I’d been rational I would have siezed the opportunity to take care of my soul’s needs for rest and relaxation and also used this time to get caught up in the areas I’d fallen behind in.  But I was in the middle of such a funk that I couldn’t do it.  I spent time on useless stuff: moping around, playing stupid (and obsolete) games on the computer, watching mediocre television, listening to music that doesn’t uplift me…

This could have lasted all Summer.  And what would have happened then?  The School year would have started, I would have even been more behind.  Less rested.  More discouraged.  Even without the pressure and demads of my teaching gig I would have not accomplished much, and I would have felt like a failure.

Satan views me like a gerbil and he puts all these treadmills before me, and sometimes I jump on them and I exhaust myself and he laughs.

God rescued me because that’s what he does.

I started reading The Bible every day again.  (No, I “inexplicablly” still couldn’t find any copies in the house.  Biblegateway.com rocks!)  And then there was the day we lost our electricity.

We spent an afternoon with no power.  And suddenly I got it, that whole Sabbath thing about how many of the ultraorthodox Jewish people don’t even turn on (or off) lights on The Sabbath.  They don’t drive, they don’t use electronics.

I won’t be adopting any of those practices on a regular basis.  But I learned something.

There is a difference between rest and distraction.   Without power, most of my distractions were stopped cold.

What are some differences between rest and distraction?

Rest is quiet.  Sometimes literally but always figuratively.  Distraction is usually loud.  If it doesn’t make noise on the outside it makes noise on the inside.

The quiet of rest allows us to get to what is really going on on the inside, so we can hear our hearts and hear God.

The noise of distraction drowns out God’s voice and our own quietest voices.

Rest is biblical.  Many ways of resting are ancient.  We are close to forgetting some of them.

Distraction has been mastered in the modern era.  We are getting incredibly good at learning more and more about how best to distract ourselves.

Rest is fufilling.  If we are healthy we will reach a point where we’ve got all we need.

Distraction is addictive.  We need more and more to reach the same high.

God gave me this day of rest, real rest.  And in it I heard that he loves me.  He first reminded me that he’d love me if I never accomplished anything.  But he also reminded that I’m a busy guy who has lots on his plate.  The fact that I wasn’t working over the summer as a teacher was a blessing that allowed me to focus on the other things that God has put on my heart.  And as I realized this, I’ve started to do it…