Restoration vs. Relaxation

The first two days of 2011 were spent lazily, which I considered quite an accomplishment for Ms. Protestant Ethic (a.k.a. me)… that is, until I got to thinking.  

Yes, it is quite true that as I poured over my journals from 2010 I noticed a real need to deal gently with myself, learn to relax, and receive, and I am trying to practice this in 2011, but

what if when it comes to relaxation there are different strokes for different folks?  Protestant ethic, need to produce and contribute aside, what if relaxation needs to facilitate restoration as well to impart the true reception of Christ’s grace?

Apart from asking, and believe me, I’m dying to know, what exactly did God do on that seventh day (and yes, I know God rested, but I’m wondering if God was playing video games, napping, hanging out with the heavenly court playing slap jack…), I’m wondering if for some of us tv-watching, excessive eating, sleeping, and general vegging doesn’t actually provide the restorative rest we are looking for, the kind that serves us as a Sabbath ought to, and leaves us ready to tackle another week.

I remember reading an article about Europe and the United States that insisted that Americans don’t know the meaning of pleasure–we stress ourselves out all week, working long hours, and crash on the weekends, come back for more, and totally miss the meaning of enjoyment of our daily lives…

Is it really that bad?

My friend Beth recently told me about these mini-lectures she watches on ted.com, and she described one that had to do with happiness levels being linked to surprise.  The particular speaker mentioned that because our lives are so scheduled and programmed today, our threshold for surprise is a lot lower, and therefore, our happiness levels have dipped.

My response was that I actually feel quite the opposite: when I get in tune with God, I am constantly surprised, shocked, and in awe of the work God is doing in my life.  My life of faith (and I think my life as an academic as well) keeps me consistently inspired, stimulated, and excited by the little that I know and all that there is to learn.

That may sound corny, but wait until you hear this: The Times recently published an article on what makes happy marriages, and experts said that any marriage can stay together with the right resolve, but the stimulating ones are the ones in which both partners challenge each other to try and learn new things.  In other words, the less your spouse pushes you to be the best you you can be, the less vital they are to your growth as a person, and the less vital your marriage becomes to you as a person, your personal growth, and your happiness.

So (and I promise I’m getting back to my original point about rest, restoration, and relaxation here, I swear, just hang in there!!), I am realizing that for almost a year or so I’ve been looking at relaxation as “down time,” time when I should shut off my brain and do something akin to vegging in sweats on the couch, but that doesn’t work for me (no judgment here if that works for you by the way).

Instead, for an ENTJ like me, activities like spending time with God in silent prayer, journaling, or talking with friends about things that matter, or exercising, or even blogging, seem to produce that boost of energy, that sense of reflection, satisfaction, and restoration that sends me back into my life inspired.  This has taken me far too long to puzzle out, but I’m really enthused about seeking restoration (versus relaxation) in 2011 and seeing what fruits it brings.

What about you?  What restores you?  For me, it’s been writing this blog, for the last fifteen minutes…on my work break!

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