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.


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.

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.

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.

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