The Importance of Rest
Over two decades ago a research professor named Dr. Martin Moore-Ede published research findings about the new “lifestyle” the world was embarking on and specifically on the impact of being on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He included a stark warning about the non-stop society we had embarked upon as a nation and a world.
If you remember 1994 when this book was published, fax machines were a new thing in most offices. It was the start of modems taking over phone lines. AOL was sending out their floppy discs and then later CDs in the US mail and even in newspaper inserts. TV stations were going from signing off with the National Anthem after Johnny Carson to a 24-hour programming cycle and around-the-clock newsrooms. Stores began staying open 24 hours a day…all of a sudden we had the ability to walk into Walmart anytime to get milk or a TV or a VCR or Pork & Beans.
Dr. Moore-Ede published his thoughts on this change in our world and his research in a book entitled The Twenty-Four Hour Society.
In this book Dr. Moore-Ede notes many of the world’s most notorious industrial accidents—such as The Titanic, The Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the fatal navigational error of Korean Air Lines 007—all occurred in the middle of the night.
When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian A300 airbus, killing all 290 people aboard, fatigue-stressed operators in the high-tech Combat Information Center on the carrier misinterpreted radar data and repeatedly told their captain the jet was descending as if to attack when in fact the airliner remained on a normal flight path.
In the Challenger space shuttle disaster, key NASA officials made the ill-fated decision to go ahead with the launch after working 20 hours straight and getting only two to three hours of sleep the night before. Their error in judgment cost the lives of seven astronauts and nearly killed the U.S. space program.
Common sense, and millions of years of evolutionary history, tell us that people are more prone to error when their natural cycles of sleeping and waking are disrupted. Yet our society, driven by the pace of high-tech communications and the economic pressures of international competition, is increasingly tempting fate as we become ever more committed to round-the-clock performance.
Airline pilots fight drowsiness at the controls while haggard executives race through too many time zones. Traders get up in the middle of the night to juggle huge sums on foreign markets, medical residents face critical decisions in the blur of twenty-four-hour shifts, and now in 2021 smart phones, the wireless internet, and instant access to everything from news to the computers on our desk back in the office keeps us plugged into our work night and day, everywhere we go. The results are employee burnout, accidents and litigation, and even loss of life.
Dr. Moore-Ede’s book was a warning against these increasing dangers of being always plugged in and gave a call for dramatic change.
As he stated in his book, “we ignore our need for rest and renewal at the peril of others and ourselves.”
God, of course, knew this about us when we were created. He warned the people of the need to rest body, mind and soul. In Exodus 20:8-11, the Hebrew Nation is told to:
“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”
Even Jesus our Lord knew the need for rest for himself and his disciples. In the gospel of Mark Chapter 6 verses 30-32 we find these words:
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
Friends, we all need rest of the body and spirit. We all need to take time for renewal.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition this time of renewal is known as Sabbath. Once that Sabbath was prescribed for the covenant people of God as being from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Later in remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord, the Christian version of Sabbath was moved to Sunday.
In our 24/7 world we now have to find and schedule time for Sabbath. This will not always be on Saturdays or Sundays and almost certainly it will not be a 24 hour period, but taking time to rest and renew…to spend time in prayer…to engage in practices to connect us to God and with those we love are essential if we are to live not only healthy lives but also allow ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit and the gifts the spirit has to offer us.
Last weekend I went to an event with my family on Saturday. If you know me, I normally walk into most events with my cell phone, portfolio and/or iPad in hand. Certainly, I need to be connected at all times. I mean what if I miss an email or a news flash—would the world actually continue to spin on its axis?
At this event I took my phone and iPad in with me. What nearly sent me over the edge was when I went to look at both screens and gaze upon their glorious digital glow, all I got was a flashing red light shaped like a battery telling me to recharge the batteries on these devices. Basically, I was holding two paper weights – one was larger than the other but that was the only purpose they could serve without a charge. I did not have a power cord or charger or portable battery-pack, so I simply had to set them aside.
For about 15 minutes I was jittery looking at them and trying to figure out how I could charge them out of thin air. Finally, however I was able to give it up and for the next 3 hours I was disconnected from the world. When I finally left the event I felt as at ease and relaxed as I had in quite a while. I had been fully present in the event, with those around me and even with myself. While this was not a religious event, it was Sabbath. And as I have thought about this event for several days now, I must admit that I had become unbalanced in my habits and it was hurting me… and those around me. I realized just how important it is for me to need to be intentional about what I connect myself to.
Alas where your treasure is there is your heart…and sometimes where we choose to put our heart can lead to painful and exhausting outcomes.
So, I invite each of us to truly consider how we live our life and to be sure we are keeping things in proper balance including our work, our play, and our spiritual walk.
We need to remember that sometimes we are called to go away to a deserted place all by ourselves and rest a while.
So that we might be renewed to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Alleluia Amen.
Citation: GaryYates, Roanoke, Virginia; references Martin Moore-Ede, The Twenty-Four Hour Society (Circadian Information, 1993)