By Jovan Barrington
Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit about taking his family to Disney World in his special Mr. Universe. He compares Disney World in July to standing in line on the surface of the sun. “Remember when you were a kid and you would go on vacation and go, ‘why is dad always in a bad mood? Now I understand.’” It’s funny because it’s true. Vacation isn’t always what it appears to be.
Later he jokes, “There’s pressure to have fun on your vacation… but at Disney, it’s more like a desperation. You see it on the faces of the parents… ‘this was an enormous mistake. I hope you’re having fun. It was either this or send you to college.’”
Rest vs Leisure
My family and I recently returned from vacationing at Disney World. “It’s good to get away and rest.” This is what people have mistakenly said to me post trip. If you have ever been to Disney with your young children it’s hard enough to call what you did a vacation. I did use vacation days to go, but it is probably more accurate to call our time at Disney world a family trip.
Did we have fun? Yes! Was it memorable? Yes! Was I able to relax? Eh, sort of? Nothing against my beautiful children, but relaxing would have meant leaving them at home. This is also how I would distinguish the difference between a vacation and a trip.
You may not agree with me in making that distinction. But just like there is a difference in a trip and a vacation. There is a difference between rest and leisure.
In the book, The Tech Wise Family, Andy Crouch shares his family’ “Sabbath ladder,” which is their rhythm for resting from their tablets, smartphones, and televisions. They turn them off for one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year.
Andy believes that any attempt to rest in an age of technological devices without turning them off is not resting at all, it’s toil and/or leisure.
In the beginning, God created all things including work and rest. He built this into his created order. He commanded that mankind fill the earth and subdue it. Man, being God’s image bearers would be catalysts for a flourishing earth. God gave a natural rhythm to life, work and rest, and it was good.
After the “fall of man” this order was disrupted and what was ordered became disordered. Fast forward into the future and you find the Israelites enslaved by the Egyptians. They had become slaves to the technological advancements of brickmaking and masonry. With the “fall of man,” work had become toil and this was never more true than under slavery.
God sent his prophet Moses to free his people from Egyptian slavery.
He then had to teach them his ways.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.” – Exodus 20:8–10
Rest was something God provided that a slave’s master refused to give. God is not giving his freshly emancipated people restrictions. This is liberation.
He was calling upon formerly oppressed free people to trust Him. In the Exodus story, God provides his people with manna from heaven. The food God provides is replenished each morning and they are only to collect enough food for each day with the only exception being the day before the Sabbath. On that day they were to collect two days’ worth of food.
When they were slaves if they didn’t work they didn’t eat. There was always a fear of running out and they had to learn to think differently. With God as their liberating King if they didn’t work there was still food. They need not fear of missing out when they choose to take a timeout.
Work for six days and on the seventh, rest.
Eat More Chicken
Have you ever wanted Chick-fil-a but it was a Sunday? Frustrating right? How do they do it? They could make so much more money if they were to open on Sunday. The place would be full of church folk. But that’s how temptation works. You always crave more. Couldn’t they at least keep the drive through open?
You know about the practices of Chick-fil-a but did you also know that Orthodox Jewish owned electronics retailer B & H closes its Manhattan store every Saturday to observe the Sabbath?You might be thinking, “well, of course, they can do that because they are multimillion dollar companies.” But in an age where factories run three shifts to maximize profits and when you are constantly connected to work and are expected to be available long after office hours, there’s something they can teach us.
Chick-fil-a and B & H are resting while the rest of us toil.
You may also be thinking I don’t have the time or resources to rest. Like the rapper, Drake says, “I don’t take naps. Me and the money are way too attached to go and do that.” We may not only be too attached to the idol of money but to technology as well.
But just like wanting Chick-fil-a to keep the drive-through open on Sunday’s when we do try and rest we don’t turn off our phones or turn off our TV’s.
This is what we think is rest, watching other people play basketball and hockey. But this isn’t true rest because we are watching other people work for our enjoyment. We are not resting we are being entertained at someone else’s expense. This is not rest, this is leisure. It’s still work.
God wants us to learn to trust him, set aside our devices and set our hearts on his provision of grace and peace. Choose to delight in His unconditional love instead of divesting in leisure.
Our devices can lead us toil and leisure when has God has called us to work and rest. Bon Jovi may have sung, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The good news is that you can rest before you die.
And you can rest your devices before you go to sleep. Over 70 percent of teens and adults sleep with their phones beside their beds. The last thing on our minds becomes the first thing in our thoughts when we wake up.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. Psalm 3:5 (NIV)
In an age of devices have we replaced “LORD” with iPhone?
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me
dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8 (NIV)
… and have we replaced “peace” with anxiety?
One day when we were in the park I was anxious to get our family to the next reserved attraction using Disney’s Fast Pass. The kids were reluctant to keep pace and expressed their desire to go swim in the hotel pool.
There was nothing I could do to convince them that what we were doing was our best use of our time and the best bang for our buck. “We didn’t spend all this money just to go to the pool.” I checked my Disney Experience app and thought, “We are going to miss out on something special.” I had paid good money to be entertained. I was desperate to have fun and show my kids a good time.
We ended up spending several hours in the pool the next day. You know what was great about the pool? We played tag, Marco Polo, we raced, we held our breath, we made new memories. And I was convinced that the pool was a good idea even when I originally had a fear of missing out or a fear of wasting an opportunity.
Like the Israelite’s fear of running out of food, we have a fear of missing out. “If I turn off my devices how will I know what’s going on?”
But just like the pool and my family’s ability to create fun and a memorable experience, a digital Sabbath can help you to experience real rest.
In the pool, my family created some fun instead of someone else doing it for us. The thing about our devices is that they convince us that we are only to consume. But resting from them can save us from being consumed by them.
And here is the best thing, our amazing devices have given us a practical out. They can be turned off.