Sunday, February 15, 2015


I have spent six years of my life in college, with a one-year break between undergrad and graduate school.  Throughout the duration of those years I maintained a perpetual twitch in my left eye as a result of a constant lack of sleep or rest of any sort.  I am not proud of this, really I consider it to be a personal low.  I know it started during my freshman year, but the eye twitch really kicked it up a notch during the first semester of my sophomore year.  I had become very concerned about maintaining my grades by that point, and I had also been lucky enough to meet a group of very fun friends.  I think it’s difficult for most people to find the balance between studying and social activities in college (for the record, I think they’re at least equally important), but I made it especially difficult on myself by being very intense about both.  It’s tricky not to miss a single dinner, party, dance, weekend trip, or event of any kind while also not cutting yourself any slack in class.  The result was that I never went to sleep before 3 or 4 am, fell asleep any time I was still, and had a constant eye twitch. 

I think the true highlight of this time period came during my junior year when I was running for a spot on our student government’s executive council.  I was sitting up on the auditorium stage, all dressed up in a suit, waiting on my turn to speak and my eye just went crazy.  I felt it and later my friends were kind enough to give me a full report on the situation.  Here's the bottom line-I could dress up, put on make-up, and speak intelligently, but my eye would always give away the complete exhaustion just under the surface.  Why, WHY did I do this to myself? They should have called me Whitney “Left-Eye” Smith.  Instead, my friends gave me the endearing nickname of “Twitchney”.

I wish I could say that I kicked all these habits once I was finished with school, but they have followed me firmly into adulthood.  They might look different--I definitely cannot stay up until 3 or 4 am anymore if I would like to function like a normal person the next day--but I am still tempted to ignore the need to rest, and I’m guessing this is a struggle for most of you too.  This looks different for all of us, but for me this looks like doing what feels like a million things at once, planning a million things at once, staying up too late working, and having weekends full of events. 

I dare say that no one wants to feel exhausted all of the time.  We keep going without stopping because we feel like we have to, not because it’s great fun for us.  We live in a society that moves really fast, and we feel like things will fall apart if we slow down.  The problem is that a lack of rest doesn’t just result in an eye twitch.  It can make us irritable, emotional, and distractible. It can lead to or increase feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.  No rest can make us less productive, mess up our appetite, and can cause us to get sick more easily. When we are constantly exhausted it’s easy for us to return to old bad habits and ignore taking care of ourselves.  Ultimately, a lack of rest can suck the joy out of life.  I’m not just talking about physical rest, I’m talking about spiritual, mental, and emotional rest as well.  The older I get, this past year more than ever, I am realizing that rest is not optional.  It’s a crucial part of living a healthy life. 

The Bible gives us lots of examples of rest.  Genesis 2:2&3 tells us, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” I can’t be exactly sure of what God specifically did on that seventh day, but I can be sure that He spent it resting.  It doesn’t say that He snuck in a little or a different kind of work on the side, but that He rested.  Why do I sometimes feel like this example does not apply to me, and that what I’m doing is so important that I can’t stop to rest?

Jesus gives us a lot of examples of rest too.  He set aside time to spend totally alone with God or with just His closest friends after intense periods of busyness, before making important decisions, or before big events.  He encouraged His disciples to do the same thing.  In Mark 6:31&32, just before the feeding of the 5,000 it says, “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”  Without spiritual rest we will quickly feel ourselves feeling far from God.  

Physical rest is crucial for survival, spiritual rest and renewal are the basis for living a life of joy and purpose, but I also think mental/emotional rest is an important part of a balanced life.  I spend my entire day hearing and thinking about intense topics, and I bet that's true for many of you as well.  When I get home it's important for me to spend at least a little time watching or reading something light hearted, happy, or encouraging.  If I'm feeling fancy this might mean a light hearted Christian book, but most times it means reading a book or watching a show that is pointless and not at all high quality.  My brain just needs to rest and not think. 

The best rest looks different for all of us--you know what works best for you.  The main thing is to plan out your rest time and make it happen, preferably before you become exhausted.  Time to rest doesn't usually just show up, we have to be intentional about it.  So go ahead, plan it out, and be protective of that time!

Getting enough rest is something that I have really been trying to work on in 2015.  I'm definitely not perfect at it, but I'm getting better.  I'm planning to keep it up, because believe me, no one wants to have an encounter with Twitchney the eye twitcher.  


No comments:

Post a Comment