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As I was turning the key to my room one midafternoon, I could not help but feel the perspiration trickling down my back, emphasizing even more the pain building up in my lower back. I entered my room, debating on whether I should take that tempting ensaimada in the kitchen, finish the work I had in the office or plop into bed. My body was certainly talking to me. In fact, it was screaming at me or, should I say, whimpering because of the extreme fatigue I was experiencing.
Rest. I guess that was what I really needed. Yes, there was work to be done, but my body was crying out for rest. I thought that if I forced myself to work and ignored my body’s signals for the need to rest, this would probably lead to a slavish compulsion, leading to a burnout. Or was I already at that stage?
As I lay in bed, feeling the obvious relief in my leg muscles, I was convinced that rest is good, and if it is good, it must come from God. Just as too much work leads to burnout, too much rest could also lead to laziness and then sloth. Sloth becomes a vice and later a cardinal sin. Rest and work are indeed God’s gift to us—all the more reason not to abuse one or the other. We ought to work in God and rest in God. God should be in both our rest and work periods.
Among my friends in business and politics, there seems to be a tendency to boast of their capacity to work even during holidays. These businessmen and politicians sometimes sound like self-proclaimed martyrs who have given up rest and relaxation to contribute to our industrialization. Perhaps some people are impressed with such workaholics and their capacity to work without counting the hours. I often wonder, though, if everyone who does some amount of substantial work knows why he works.
Work is a priority in life, but it is not a top priority. Our top priority is God and our friendship with Him. An expression of that priority is the service of others and all those whom God has given us to love.
Parents work so that they can provide a good education and value formation for their children. Unfortunately, all this work keeps most parents away for such long periods of time that the children, the beneficiaries of their labor, are often left alone at home in front of the television-often, feeling alone, lost, unloved, and lacking in attention.
As children, we were taught that “All work and no play made Jack a dull boy.” Work without prayer, work without rest, work without relaxation is much a sin as laziness. It makes us less human because it makes us less reflective, less loving, and less rooted in love.
An esteemed college professor loved philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. This inspiring philosopher said that toward the middle of life, he was convinced that all we needed to do was to work for six weeks a year in order to live. We work to live. It is not healthy to live for work. It is certainly not right also to enslave ourselves to pay credit cards and amortizations on loans so that we can continue to amass more and more material possessions.
Isn’t it such a wonderful irony that Labor Day is celebrated as a holiday? Is it not such a phenomenon that the day of workers is celebrated by taking a break or resting? Does that not cry a message worth looking into?
Rest is God’s gift to us. So is work. Work is a gift of God that enables us to share in His creative power. A proper balance can help us be more human and humane. In fact, work when done well can even enable man to share in the fruits of his labor. Those who do not have the benefit of work opportunities and the benefits of work itself may share in these fruits when those who work during their periods of rest share of their time and selves with those who hardly have time fruits recognize even their own humanity because of sheer poverty.
We often hear it said that rest does not mean doing nothing. Rest could just be a change from the normal pattern of activities one is used to. So for those who work so hard to earn much, maybe there is some time, some good, and God to share during those spare moments. Rest assured, you stand to gain harvest that does not rot or spoil.
Stop. Take a deep breath and while you put that tired thinking mind to rest, think of all those who cannot seem to rest because they are worried about finding work. You might just be able to work out something to make them live better lives.
WORK AND REST
Jesus Our Light