Posted on: 15 Jan, 2020

Sabbath Reflection #4: Rest vs Escapism

What do we choose to do during our leisure time?

Some of us will have some go-to relaxation activities, like sport or reading or a creative hobby of some kind. Others amongst us are so exhausted that our natural reaction after a time of busyness or stress is to just shut down and become passive. There is a difference, however, between activities that recreate and restore us and those that just provide a source of escapism or ‘turning off our brains’.

Escapism can distract us from our worries and allow us to be present in our imaginations for a while, which can be a good thing. What better way to spend a 40-degree summer afternoon than by watching a movie and immersing ourselves into the fictional world of a space conflict or a spy ring or the lives of four young girls from another century? Escapism, however, doesn’t necessarily bring meaningful rest.

Dr Matthew Edlund, a rest and regeneration expert in Florida, states that:

The idea that rest is something that you lie down and ‘do nothing’ is really not how the body operates…The body is always rebuilding itself, but it rebuilds much better if you vary activities. ‘Turn off your brain’ is not really what you want to do. What you want to do is engage your brain elsewhere.[1]

Further, a 2002 study into television addiction found that people often feel worse after extended periods of time in front of screens:

[P]articipants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted. They say they have more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. In contrast, they rarely indicate such difficulty after reading. After playing sports or engaging in hobbies, people report improvements in mood. After watching TV, people’s moods are about the same or worse than before[2].

We’ve heard what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 many times: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ When we start our time of rest with God (perhaps using some of the ideas from last Wednesday’s Devotion) rather than escapism, we are reminded of who we are in Him.

The unique gifts and abilities God has given us to use as we pursue His mission can also be used to drive the decisions we make about how we rest. Apostles might rest by trying a new activity, while teachers may like to teach some friends how to make a favourite recipe. Introverts will likely want to spend some rest time alone while extroverts will rest by spending time with friends. Kinaesthetic people might rest by being physically active and the visually inclined will enjoy wandering through a gallery.

Who has God made you to be? And what does that mean in terms of the way you will engage with activities that will bring you rest and restoration?

– Kirrily

[1] See: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3daqaj/is-watching-tv-actually-a-good-way-to-rest-your-brain

[2] See: https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/televisionaddiction.pdf

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