Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Tragedy of Restlesness

"The Tragedy of Restlesness" was delivered at the Headstart Leaders' Spiritual Retreat, 16-18 September 2005. It is part 1 in a series of 4 reflections under the title 'Come Away With Me'.

If I were to ask you to just rest and do nothing all of today, what will you do? Grab a newspaper, turn on the TV, logon the web, maybe do some shopping or balance your accounts? If I told you, your food & clothing for all of this year is taken care of – what will you do with your life? Book a holiday? Climb the Himalayas? Read all the books you’ve bought in the last year? The tragedy of our ultra-modern life is there simply is no time for rest, and even if there was – we no longer know how to.

Our culture is such that we are constantly distracted – by ads, news flashes, SMS-es, latest movie releases, etc. We have made life so zippingly fast-paced, that we can’t catch up with ourselves any more. Anything we do, buy, read today is obsolete by the time we lay hands on it – somebody is inventing something better right now, a new discovery is being published today, the way you operate has been superceded by a smarter method. Sadly, though we are so breathless playing catch-up trying to stay focussed we no longer know what is rest much less how to get it.

At a time when we need to recover our humanity and meaning the most, we are swept away by a tide of artificial substitutes. Hollywood, MTV, the tourism and food industry make sure of that. What entertainment and every kind of sensual indulgence offers is a quick-fix, temporary relief, fleeting moments of pleasurable but imaginary escape which leaves us only more hungry, empty and lonely than before. But then, we’ve got to get back to work – who has time to think about it?

In a similar situation of exhaustion and starvation, Jesus, recognising the urgent need for recovery and nourishment intervened:
‘"Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) And they went away in the boat to a lonely place
by themselves. (Mark 6:31-32, NASB)’

I love the passage for what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Go away for awhile and come back ready to work again.’ He doesn’t send you away only when you are fatigued beyond use, and for the sole purpose of rehabilitating the workforce. And it isn’t one of those company motivation and indoctrination retreats just to make you more aggressive and productive.

The invitation is threefold: it is to ‘come away’ (NASB) – drawing away/detaching ourselves from the work when it has become damaging to the soul. Work itself is not the enemy, it is when work has overtaken the heart that perspective sorely needs to be restored. There are warning signs and we must learn to recognise them.

Secondly it is to ‘come with me’ (NIV) – a leaving of the things that have robbed you of your inner joy and tunneled your spiritual vision, to return to the real heart, purpose and goal of our lives, Jesus.

And thirdly, for a good reason: ‘they had no leisure so much as to eat’ (KJV). No leisure, so much as to eat! This rendition in the KJV makes a sharp point and Maslow would be quick to point out – that if the disciples were so consumed by the work they couldn’t even eat, you can imagine how spiritually and emotionally starved they must have already become.

We will explore in further sessions this important invitation. What are the things that erodes our lives, keeping us from our true identity and a growing intimacy with God?

In the face of massive opposition and danger, David says: ‘One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,’ but if he can’t get that, he’ll settle for just one day. ‘Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.’ (Psalm 84:10, NIV). He makes the difficult choice of choosing, like Mary, ‘the better thing.’

In my final year of Masters, I suffered a serious health problem. I was so stressed from working on my final dissertation, and studying for the exit exams, and leading a church, and speaking in the student CF, I developed peptic ulcer disease that required large doses of opioids for pain-relief. In that difficult period going through gastroscopies, ultrasounds and drug therapy – I discovered I also had gallstones and fatty deposits in the liver. I was obese, and the repressed stress had been burning away at my stomach lining. I was forced to work through the deeper issues at work. By God’s grace and much, much love from my wife and others around me, I soon realised I was chronically depressed, easily irritable, quietly bitter and prone to rage. Compulsive overeating was one of the complications of my masked depression. Coming to terms with my adrenaline addiction and stress-burnout pattern, I learnt some crucial skills for early recognition and intervention. The first few months were tough-going, subjecting myself to rigid monitoring and journaling my feelings, but in time the hard labor bore fruits of much peace, improved relationships, and best of all – I lost 20kgs of weight!

You may not have come to such serious consequences of stress-burnout in your life, but we all need to learn the skills of recognizing it, hearing Jesus’ invitation to ‘come away’ and give ourselves permission to rest. We need to move from denial, through anger (blaming everyone else for our restlessness), to acceptance (that we need rest), to change (taking responsibility for getting rest.)

Reflection and dialog:
1. Have you suffered burnout recently?
2. What steps led to it? What were its consequences for you?
3. Were there early signs of stress and burnout for you?
4. What steps do you need to take to ‘give yourself permission’ to rest – do you have difficulty doing that?


Recommended reading: Unmasking Male Depression, by Archibald D. Hart

Part 1 - The Tragedy of Restlesness
Part 2 - Coming into the Present
Part 3 - Return to the True Self
Part 4 - Journeying from Eden to Heaven

3 Comments:

At 11:43 PM, Blogger sbanboy said...

Thanks for sharing bro ... I can totally identify with what u went thru.

I am doing my masters in Anaesthesia. I am still struggling to balance work and studies.

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger Robin said...

Great info..

When I feel restless, I blog..

and once my recovery is over.. I get back to work..

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger Nida said...

i love this post….!!!
its is so awesum…….i ws lost in a trance while i ws readin it……
gr8 wrk !!!!

source: Faraz Sms

 

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