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Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Respecting Others’ Right to Rest

4 Oct

Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken the time to look at a few techniques to help us get the rest we need to serve God at our best.  This week, we’re flipping the coin as we examine the importance of allowing others to get the rest that they need.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  While Jesus wasn’t the originator of this phrase, it does summarize a great deal of His teaching.  (That is, of course, presuming that you generally like others to approach you with grace, mercy, generosity, etc.)  It’s an important phrase to remember when we discuss the value of rest.  After all, everyone needs some time to relax… and helping others get away, even just for a moment, can be a powerful presentation of our Christian faith!

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Notice He doesn’t qualify His “all”.  He doesn’t say, “Come to Me, you Jews who are weary” or “Come to Me you slaves who are weary” or even “Come to Me you temple-goers who are weary”, but “Come to Me, all who are weary.” He doesn’t seem concerned with the sex or social status of those who approach Him for rest and shows no interest in their career choice or political affiliation – His only concern is that people need rest.  Perhaps the appeal of this phrase is that in seeking to have a physical need met, a spiritual one is met as well.  And if having the one met by Christ leads to the other being met in a more important, eternal sense, then we who are “imitators”(Ephesians 5:1) of Christ ought to do all we can to help those around us experience rest.

So what does this look like in application?  To begin with, we need to be alert to the needs of others.  Stop talking and start listening.  It’s likely that you’ll begin to recognize the signs of exhaustion in the words of your siblings, the tone of your boss, or the actions of your professor.  When you do, this alertness ought to lead us to action.  Here are a few examples of the form that action might take:

  1. Respect for break times and off-work hours.  We’ve all been there:  We’re lounging in the break room enjoying our lunch when someone comes in and asks our opinion on a problem they’re facing out on the sales floor.  It isn’t that we mind weighing in, but we’d prefer to do it on the clock.  Though it may seem surprising, we aren’t alone in this sentiment.  If you see your math professor headed into the baseball stadium or your employer relaxing with a magazine, now isn’t the time to approach them for comment!  Let them enjoy their time off and wait to approach them until they’re back on the clock.
  2. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because your boss is salaried, they don’t have a right to enjoy lunch undisturbed.  Unless it’s a real emergency (like the store is burning down), leave them alone and address the issue once they’ve packed away their munchies.  Many employees won’t afford them this kind of basic human decency, so you can bet they’ll notice if you do!
  3. Don’t assume that you know what everyone else’s life is like.  It’s easy to rationalize pressuring a high performance out of someone who we feel isn’t justified in their weariness.  Unfortunately we don’t always know the full story behind why our co-worker always shows up yawning or a particular church member never seems to have the time to serve.  That exhaustion could be from a party that went on until the wee hours of the morning… or it could be from an unavoidable late-night study session.  Give the benefit of a doubt and cut others some slack when it comes to adding to their burden.  Respect their boundaries when they say they just can’t work the overtime or tend the nursery.
  4. Head off the tension at the pass.  Romans 12:18 tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” I probably don’t need to say it, but conflict isn’t conducive to rest, so do your best to avoid it.  Even when you’re justified in your frustration, approaching your pastor employer, parents, or coworkers with a tone of sympathy and an expectation that they’re man or woman enough to resolve the problem can go a long way towards creating a restful environment and actually fixing the situation.
  5. Do the unexpected.  Go out of your way to teach an extra class and give another Sunday School teacher a break or sneak your boss a candy bar and keep watch for a few minutes while they consume it.  You may be surprised at how much impact an unexpected, rest-inducing act can have!

While these ideas just scratch the surface, you’re likely starting to get the picture.  We live in a stressful world and, when we take the time to relieve the stress of others and afford them an opportunity to rest, our actions get noticed.  If we take these actions in the right way, they point observers straight to the One who can give them rest not just now, but for all eternity!

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