relaxation v rest.

“And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.” Genesis 2:2.

Rewind one week to last Thursday. It’s my one day off in the week – I don’t have anywhere I have to be or anything I have to do. No sermon prep, no grocery run or deposit for work, etc. It’s great.

Kind of.

I wake up, I make coffee, I watch Everybody Loves Raymond on my DVR. I read a few chapters in a book, and later in the day I decide I’m bored. So I get myself out the door and I head over to the mall, which I think will be relaxing.

Ha.

I start asking myself where I want to go and what I want to do. How do I want to relax? I go to Best Buy to look for a new CD. Can’t talk myself into one. I go to Target to see if they have any leftover World Cup stickers. None.
I run over to FYE to see if they have anything fun to get. Nothing.
I go to Half Price Books to see if there’s any good music or movies to buy. Nothing.
My friend texts me and tells me to stop by her workplace and she’ll make me a coffee and get me a pastry. Ok, I say. So I go and sit and have a coffee and play Football Manager on my phone. We chat for a bit while she deals with other customers. My battery starts to die and I realize I’ve been gone for three hours and I’d like to go home. I go home. My roommate and his girlfriend are home and so we sit and eat what turned into three bags of pastries. They invite me to their college ministry at church that night. I say maybe. I decide against it. I sit down to watch a movie, I eat, blah blah blah, I go to bed.

Before I know it, my day off has come and gone, and I’m back to work the next day.

This week, I knew something had to be different. I’m just glad I caught it first.

See, I’m a planner. I hate having things up in the air. So when I try to be spontaneous, it fails miserably. So this time, I decided I was going to make a plan.

I wrote myself a little note on my phone that listed the things I wanted to do. So I got up, I made myself coffee, had breakfast, watched some more Everybody Loves Raymond, read a book, and went over to Barnes & Noble at Hamburg Pavilion to have a coffee and just do a little writing.

In the midst of my writing, I was struck yet again with this concept that there’s a big difference between rest and relaxation. Let me explain.

Relaxing
Most of the time, you “relax” over the course of your day. I have my little relaxing go-tos: playing a game on my phone; reading; listening to a podcast; cleaning my room, bathroom, or cooking; playing soccer; watching TV, etc.

Relaxing and unwinding are the same in my book. They’re things that let you put your mind on pause for a little while, to stop thinking (maybe I shouldn’t really include reading, in that case.) I relax daily. I watch TV when I get home from work. I peruse social media, which can be sort of relaxing. I play football manager whenever I get a split second (it’s true, it is addictive.)

But relaxing is passive, and rest, I believe, is active.

Rest
Scripture doesn’t say this, but I imagine that on that 7th day, God sat back and He looked at all of the work He’d done. He sat and enjoyed it, but He also evaluated it.

This is how I’ve discovered I rest: First of all, I plan my day. I decide all of the things I truly want to do, count the cost of them, then if I decide they’re worthwhile, I do them. Usually I go somewhere quiet (maybe I’m more of an introvert than I like to admit) and I get my journal. I write down all the stuff I’ve been thinking about, I muse over it for an hour or longer. I sit alone with my thoughts, and I evaluate what’s happening in life. I stop worrying about financial restrictions for just a bit and I get myself a cup of coffee. I pray, I think.

This is how I’ve discovered I don’t rest: I wake up without any idea of what to do. I go to a bunch of stores. I buy a bunch of stuff, because retail therapy works. I think about going to a movie. I think about hanging out with a friend. I think about playing soccer. I think about cooking, but I end up eating out. It’s all blurry. None of it’s fun.

I think the difference in rest and relaxation hinges on this: how deliberate are you? Are you doing things you truly enjoy doing? If you’re an extrovert, are you carving out time with friends? If you’re an introvert, are you carving out time to be alone? If you’re a planner, are you meticulously planning your day? If you’re spontaneous, are you freeing yourself of a plan?
If you don’t get an actual day off, try working, taking a nap, then making your plans (or not making your plans.)
I think each person rests a different way. And I think the key to truly resting is figuring out how you rest and doing whatever that takes.

Life is short – start living.

It’s Friday night. I’m sitting in my sister’s apartment, eating chipotle and ripping a bunch of new music to my computer while my laundry washes and dries in respective machines. Her adorable little cat (whom I’m cat-sitting) meows faintly through the buzz and tumble of the laundry and paws at my leg. I think she wants to play.

Crazy Friday night, huh?

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve been thinking about this weird phenomenon of late – and I think it starts with my age. I’m 23, and everyone I think is older than me turns out to be younger, and vice versa. In other words, nobody’s age is what it seems. I guess I’m just at a weird spot in life – I think that as a recent college graduate, you expect life to slow down for a bit before it takes off again, like some sort of musical interlude caked between the two rock songs that are college and a career, then a wife, then a family, then grandkids, then retirement, then death.

At this point in life, you think you’re getting your bearing before a long trip on which you’re going to stop at a bunch of cool little spots and everything’s going to be plain as day, everything is going to be entirely deliberate, etc.

Well, here we are, and it’s nothing like that.

See, I’m starting to realize that the car is already moving.

Recently I got a position at my job in which I take charge of purchasing. It’s a serious job. It pays the bills and does so well. It’s a job I took with a view to stay in Lexington long-term.

There can’t be any more sitting around and waiting for the next big thing. Sure, there can be future aspirations, but I can’t sit here and wonder when life’s going to start.

Life already started. The adventure is under way.

These nights on which I do laundry and eat chipotle alone – these are part of it.

When I work 12-hour days and I wonder how I’m gonna get through the last hour without fainting – that’s part of it.

When I make weekend trips to see my parents or relatives in town – that’s part of it.

When I get to take a day off and go to another city, watch a baseball game, etc – that’s part of it.

When I play soccer for two and a half hours with swell college students in the evening – that’s part of it.

When I spend my time reading on my front porch, beer or coffee in hand – that’s part of it.

When I take my friends out to lunch – that’s part of it.

I don’t know if what I’m thinking makes any sense, but I guess I’m writing to myself so that I get over this idea that I’m sitting around waiting for something life owes me. I’ve made my choices – and that means I can’t regret anything to this point. If I want things in the future, I can start making choices for that. For example, I’ve not travelled much. I’ve never flown. I’ve not been out of the country, really.

If I want that to happen, I’ve got to make it happen. Every day I face choices – do I spend money on food or save up for a trip? It’s up to me.

Each choice is a sentence on a page in the story that is my life. Granted, the story isn’t ultimately about me – but I’m starting to understand that this isn’t some lame-duck period in life that isn’t a part of the story.

This is it.

Life is short, but life started a while back.

Let’s get living.

Wired for Intimacy: how pornography hijacks the male brain. (Dr. William M. Struthers)

I heard about this book a few years when it first came out in 2009 – I had been intrigued then, but not to the degree I am now that I’ve been through college and can appreciate the scientific and academic aspect of it.

So as a psychology major, I was intrigued to see this particular topic explored from a scientific perspective, because – to be honest – it’s a very personal issue. I won’t go into details because, while I feel public confession is a good thing, I don’t think it’s necessary to share just how deep (or maybe not deep) this has run in my own life. That said, pornography is something that I’ve struggled with for years (since about the seventh grade.)

Dr. William Struthers is a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, and is a neurobiologist, so the perspective was always going to relate to the brain and how our behavior links with our brains and vice versa. The key detail to note is that he teaches at Wheaton college, which is a Christian school, so this is also from a Christian perspective.

I think this is important to note because it sets the tone of the book – this was always going to be a book that, shall we say, discourages pornography. But it doesn’t discourage it in the ways that a lot of other books do.

As a man in the 21st century church, I’m used to porn-bashing. I know it myself, and I agree with it. Porn is bad news. But why is it bad news? How do I actually deal with it? How does it affect me negatively? These are the questions I had in mind when I started this book.

Dr. Struthers comes out of the blocks with strong language about what porn really is – it’s a dishonoring of the image of God by treating people as sexual objects because ultimately, porn is a product, and it’s a product to be consumed. Porn takes sex out of context, he argues. And because it’s a product to be consumed, it’s something that’s also digested by the brain and the body, the way that the stomach and the body consume food. But (and this was perhaps one of the most impactful points for me) there isn’t a way for disposing of waste in that sense.

The frightful thing about porn is its covert nature – how it affects the ways we think in subtle manners that we don’t realize. But the reality is that it creates expectations for our sexual experiences that are not only unrealistic but also unhealthy.

Here’s where I make a confession…

He quotes an episode of popular 90s-2000s show Friends in which Chandler and Joey have been watching way too much porn, and they talk about how disappointed they were that in their everyday lives, they didn’t have sexual experiences. For example, the hot bank teller didn’t ask Chandler to go into the vault with her like the hot porn actress would in the movies. Nor did the woman who delivered pizza to Joey ask to come in for sex.

It’s funny, but it’s unfortunately somewhat true. There have been times in which I’ve entertained the idea of sex when I’ve been alone with a woman, wondering “what if” they invited me in, or invited me upstairs or into their own bedrooms.
This is the first time I really noticed the pervasive nature of porn into how I think – not because I watch pornographic movies in which these scenarios occur (I can thankfully say this is not the case) but that porn has made my brain believe that sex is just easily accessible.

The first few chapters are where Struthers makes what I believe are his most effective arguments. He forces you to face how you approach porn, how you consume it, and how you try to dodge the problem of porn, whether that’s by changing the definition, by arguing it’s simply legal, or by trying to say that problems associated with porn are correlational instead of causal.

He also lays out three of the main reasons porn is so prominent – it’s accessible (I could tell you all my tips on finding easy porn,) it’s affordable (free) and anonymous. This was one of the parts that hit me like a ton of bricks and helped me see how disgusting a habit it really is, how I choose something easily accessible instead of fighting to develop a real relationship that may be harder to do but more rewarding in its intimacy; choosing something that costs me nothing either in monetary terms or relational terms; and how I choose it because it doesn’t involve me – that is, the girls I mentally sleep with don’t know who I am, and the internet doesn’t know who I am…

…as a man, that was convicting. It just hit me how dishonorable that was and how badly I want to stop because it’s such a cheap alternative to intimacy.
The second chapter talks about how porn corrupts our intimacy, and how it rewires our brains to view certain aspects of women (ie. The parts of them we find sexually appealing) and damages our intimacy because porn appeals to our desire for intimacy but fails to deliver it.

I don’t want to summarize the entire book chapter-by-chapter because then you may not have a need to read it, but he makes a lot of very good points – he talks about the consequences of porn (relationally, sexually, spiritually, mentally, physically, etc.) how porn rewires the way we view images and the way we view real women, and the brain structures involved in the consumption of pornography and the chemicals involved.

My initial criticism of this book was that the first half seems very scientific and academic, while the second half seems a little more philosophical, but then I realized he actually divided the book into two sections on purpose!

That said, the first side covers a lot of science. The second talks more about masculinity and sexuality as a whole, and what should be expected of men (especially Christian men) in relation to their sexuality. The second half is to be read through the lens of the first, so keep that in mind if you choose to read this book. It talks lots about intimacy, about the dignity and value with which people were created (because people bear God’s image,) and masculine sexuality.

I’ve already said this, but I’ll repeat it because it’s so crucial, I believe – I appreciate this book because it’s not simply another sin management book. It’s a book that forces you to face the reality of what porn does to your mind. It doesn’t make an argument based simply on morals, but on science and fact that intertwines with those morals (ie. If you really want to experience intimacy and/or honor women, then porn is bad, because it hijacks how you view women and it promises a false intimacy but it fails to deliver on that.)

It’s a compelling, convicting read that I believe God has begun to use to forge new pathways in my mind of honor and intimacy, written in a way that doesn’t shame the reader for his (since this book is aimed at men) past consumption of pornography but exhorts and spurs him on toward sanctification away from the path of pornography.
4/5 stars.