It’s been a long workweek. You’re tired and in need of some rest. Saturday is quickly approaching. What should you do? Sleep in? Go to the beach? Catch up on chores around the house? How you spend your free days during the week will determine your priorities. So, what are the options? And which is best?
First, we must make the distinction between an off day and a rest day. An off day is a break from life. A rest day is an essential part of that life, as important and as on as making copies or answering emails. On an off day, we might go to the beach or to a theme park. We are out for an adventure (even sleeping in and watching Netflix is an adventure). But rest days are something else entirely. What is the difference? Here are five easy ways to tell if you are truly resting or truly taking the day “off”.
An off day is a day to check out. Pajamas. Take-out. Laziness. Emptiness. An off day is a day of nothingness. It serves very little purpose. Although it might look like rest, it isn’t even truly restful. It just gives the illusion of rest because we are not doing anything.
On the other hand, a rest day is done with intention and purpose. It is a part of the rhythm of the week rather than a departure from it. On a rest day, we intentionally ask ourselves what will help us regain energy. What makes us come alive? It might be time with friends or hiking or contemplating life in a hammock.
The difference is in purpose. If we take an off day, we are not likely to experience rest. The day may feel like a relief because we aren’t doing what we always do. But as soon as ‘real life’ starts back up again, we are just as drained and out of it. The longing to escape comes with the unfortunate inevitability of returning to normal.
If we engage in activities that truly bring us rest, we will carry it into the week. Our return to work will have a different feel. It’s like getting a song stuck in your head. You hear it and it clings to you and you end up humming it all week.
If you are doing something that makes you sleepy, you aren’t resting. If you are doing something that makes you come alive, ironically, that is rest. Your tank is refilling. Your energy is rising.
Rest is the main ingredient in peace. And if we want to find peace we must learn what rest truly entails. This requires intentionality. Purpose.
True rest carries into the week like a song in your head for one very important reason: transcendence.
During an off day, we feel a strange sort of imprisonment. We’re at home. There might be an element of cabin fever. But we’re not doing anything. More importantly, it feels as if we aren’t being anything.
If what we call ‘rest’ is inhibited by circumstance, it is not true peace (and therefore not true rest). Truly resting means we have tapped into the core of us and it is our heart, mind, and soul that are being changed. Not just a break in our schedule. Not just a day off to do nothing. Engaging in what makes us truly us, what we most value, we are reminded of the purpose of ourselves. We are reminded why we live and why we love life. This is contagious to our perspective and our emotional state on Monday morning.
A time of rest is a time to be who we truly are. It is a time to step aside from work, in the traditional sense, agendas and deadlines and noise and seek the self-awareness that lets us know what our purpose is. God did not rest on the seventh day because he was wiped out. He rested to consider what he had done, to bask in gratitude. The same is true for us. And if we aren’t spending our rest days thinking on such things and doing things that pour coals into its fire, it is just a good old-fashioned day of nothingness. An off day.