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I'm am thrilled to have Caleb Mellinger back on the blog today to discuss a topic that is important to him and necessary for all of us. Rest. We expend tons of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy in our jobs and for our patients and it is important for us to recharge to continue to be effective. I think you will really appreciate his thoughts and if you missed his previous post you can get caught up here.
"Have you ever had on of those “aha” moments in life? Something just clicks or you have a revelation in Scripture? Has God, in His grace, gently whispered pure truth and goodness for you to do something? I pray that He has because there is nothing like His presence and peace as He shepherds us. I experienced a moment/season like this in March and April of 2020 as God used the quieter months of life during the onset of COVID-19 to take me to new depths in Him. God wanted to teach me about rest. He wanted to turn down the volume in my life, to cut out extraneous noise, and to create a new framework for my days. God used a book called "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry" by John Mark Comer to do this. Obviously, the book is about eliminating hurry but Comer challenges the reader to do this by calling out the lies of culture and the constant noise of life. He argues we can fight hurry through silence and solitude, practicing sabbath, living simply, and slowing down (literally and figuratively). Rest became the healing balm my soul needed in that season and rest in God was what I yearned most for day after day. This rest also started to change my work. This was especially true after I read another Comer book on work and rest in God's design called "Garden City." Eliminating hurry and finding better balance (always a journey never a destination) in my work/rest ratio has really helped my approach to my vocation as a physical therapist. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about rest and about work and how we might use these truths to number our days.
I love the first two chapters of the Bible. I always have because for 2 chapters humans live under God’s rule and blessing. For 2 chapters we see His perfect design and can see His purposes and plans for us as individuals, as spouses, as workers, and friends. Adam and Eve were free of sin, of distractions, of cultural and worldly enticements. Adam and Eve lived in a perfect society and ecosystem. They had what secularism today is so desperately searching for albeit incorrectly and wearyingly. Utopia. They were not free of work, however. They were not free of mandated rest. I want to ponder a few verses from Genesis 1 and 2 so that we can see the good that God has for us both in our vocation as physical therapists but also in our rest — real rest, not binging the office. To bring the garden to today and live in the freedom of His original design for His glory and our good.
"Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." Gen. 1:26-31
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." Gen. 2:15
Adam and Eve were created in the image of God to have dominion (rule) over the garden (a vast expanse if you check the geography of the 4 rivers listed), to subdue it, and to be fruitful and multiply. Adam and Eve had work to do. God created them both for particular purposes and with particular gifts. John Mark Comer argues in his book Garden City “we don’t work to live, we live to work.”
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 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. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." Gen. 2:1-3
God rested and he blessed the 7th day. Adam and Eve again were created in His image and thus were expected to rest as He rested. So, the question becomes how do we marry these two things? Work. Rest. Are they opposites in perfect contrast? Are they meant to work together? John Mark Comer again in Garden City says “Work and rest live in a symbiotic relationship. If you don’t learn how to rest well, you will never learn how to work well (and vice versa). After all, the opposite of work isn’t rest — it’s sleep. Work and rest are friends, not enemies. They are a bride and groom who come together to make a full, well-rounded life.” If we are created to rule and reign, to love and serve but to also rest in this beautiful, God given symbiotic relationship then I have to ask — how are we doing?
How do we as physical therapists protect against burnout? Documentation, growing case loads/productivity standards, decreased reimbursement, difficulty patient personalities or workplace relationships. Are you anxious yet? What about personal financial struggles such as cost of living expenses, student loans, kids, or school choices? All these things push some to work more or do weekend PRN. We grind and strive and strain. If we aren’t doing these particular things then culture does that for us. Work. Work. Work. Be yourself. Be in control of your future. Work today so you can play tomorrow.
In contrast to burnout, we also love what we do. There is much altruism and service built into being a physical therapist. We provide healing physically and often encourage spiritually. We live life with patients and coworkers. Physical therapists also use the interests, gifts, and skills God has given us along with what we have learned and invested in to care for people. We get the opportunity to love thy neighbor every single day.
The awareness of my imbalance and my lack of good and true biblical rest pushed me to make significant changes. I was able to better see and understand I cannot work for my entire career (both as a PT but also very much so as a disciple of Jesus, husband, father, friend, etc) out of my own goals, personality, strength and wisdom. I needed to rest in God and out of that then I could fulfill my earthly calling and vocations to the betterment of my own soul and then also to those I am to serve (wife, kids, patients, etc).
What about you? Do you need rest? Real rest? Biblical rest? Do you see imbalances in work and rest? Is work to you joy giving or joy stealing? Might you take hold of the Bible’s teaching on rest?
I have a firm conviction from Scripture that we are meant to rest in God and out of that rest we can go live on mission in all categories of life. Unfortunately, as we have discussed, culture and life tend to say work, work, work and then schedule a vacation or a day off or some “you time” or a binge on Netflix. God has so much more for us in Him. I pray and hope we all find rest in Him and out of that we go work and live for the glory of God.
May I offer a few practical/tangible suggestions? I share these not as someone who has it all figured out or who is teaching you. Rather I share them as one beggar to another telling you I have found some food and nourishment.
Biblical Advice / Spiritual Rest
Have a Sabbath. A 24 hour period where you live anti-culture and restore your heart and soul as a family. Comer’s two books previously mentioned are a great resource here. Stop and cease. Rest and delight. Worship. A quick note here — sabbath in Jesus time started at sundown — our day starts with rest in Him and out of that rest we can live. Grace > works.
Commune with God. Slow down and sit in scripture. Meditate on what you are reading. Ask questions and then wait on the Holy Spirit to answer them. I can be so guilty of consuming scripture and time with God like I would consume a news article or television show. I am daily learning how to SLOW down with God.
Be refreshed and renewed by the Trinity. Psalm 23. Let the cliche and commonness of this passage go and drink deeply from the richness of this Psalm.
Noise Reduction / Mental Rest
Put your phone down. Consider getting your screen time down to 60 minutes and put your phone to bed. 8pm lights out for the ole’ iPhone.
Moments of silence and solitude with God. Start at 15 minutes and increase in 15 minute intervals. Have quiet. Pray. Cease. Listen.
Quiet Car ride. No music, phone calls or podcasts.
Number your Days / Physical Rest
Guard your calendar. Say no to good things.
Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
These applications points are not exhaustive. But may they encourage you, challenge you, and train you to rest in the goodness and grace and kindness of our Heavenly Father. Out of His peace, presence and power may we use that rest to live, work and have dominion in this life until He returns to restore creation and humanity to rule and reign as He originally designed.