Thinking, Rest, and Identity.

“You think too much.”

“Stop thinking so much.”

“Why do you think about everything?”

Question like these infuriate me.

Well, not totally… I just never understood why anyone would ever ask them. A life well-lived demands that one would think a lot. Between all of the decisions we make on a daily basis, all of the things we observe around us, through the media, etc., I’d offer that the vast majority of people simply don’t think enough.

It would be simple for me to take that perspective, and simply ignore anyone who said otherwise, but the problem is that I trust a lot of the people saying these things. It’s one thing for people you don’t know so well to offer you advice, but it’s another thing completely if they know you, if they understand the way you work, when you trust them with your life. I take the words of my loved ones to heart, so when they started saying these things, I started seriously considering their words.

Recently, I’ve been hearing another set of phrases as well.

“Do you ever get any rest?”

“You need to rest more.”

“I’m glad you’re getting more sleep, are you getting any rest?”

I understood these questions until someone asked me the last one.

I’ve always known that there’s a difference between sleep and rest, but as intellectuals often do, I’d forgotten to actually apply the knowledge to my life. I’ve always known that I’m a very analytical person and that I’m constantly making all sorts of observations about my surroundings and trying to make some sort of sense out of them. I watch people, their behaviors, facial expressions, mannerisms, all of that, I enjoy it. I’m always noticing random things in my environment, pieces of artwork, trash, colors, sounds, especially music, if they’re music playing, I’m always listening to it. There’s nothing wrong with all of this, in fact, it’s usually a good thing, it just takes a lot of energy.

It’s like having an Android phone and leaving apps open in the background, you’re draining the battery without being aware of it.

You can charge your phone and run the battery down in a handful of hours though you’re not physically using it. Not only that, but charging takes longer because so much of the power is being poured right back into running the apps, that’s why sleep isn’t always so restful.

We all need to shut off those extra apps in order to get the kind of rest we need.

How do we do that? I do it by finding things to do that I love and completely immerse myself in them.

My first choice is usually music, when I’m listening to a song I love, I let the song swallow me, the beat pulse through me, the melody wash through me, and the lyrics speak to my soul. Nobody needs to be taught how to lose themselves in a song, but sometimes we need to be reminded that it’s healthy and necessary occasionally.

As most of you know, I fasted from music for Lent, so I had to be a little more creative. I fell in love with silence all over again. No distractions, nothing telling me what to think, just me and God. Whether it was on my morning jogs, afternoon walks to the lake, or drives to wherever, I learned that silence is really essential to knowing myself. When I’m able to get away and think my own thoughts while listening to the soft drum of raindrops, or feeling the waves under me as I sit on the docks and let the sun blanket me with warmth.

This can be done with a with whatever you enjoy, (though some things are obviously more productive and healthy than others) Some of my other favorites are reading, video games, prayer, washing dishes, photography, and writing. The key isn’t to actually stop thinking, it’s more to let your thoughts flow freely. To enjoy your surroundings instead of analyzing them, to join them instead of simply observing them, to find yourself in whatever is going on around you. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t find “ourselves” when we’re apart from everything.

We only find ourselves when we’re apart of something that’s bigger than us.

Our families, our teams at work, our churches, our schools, our friends, these are all communities where we discover ourselves. Don’t fight to stay separate all of the time, wade into your environment, enjoy the sights, the sounds, the feeling of it. Appreciate that God has let you be a part of it, enjoy yourself. Don’t analyze it so much, just enjoy it. Rest is joyfully embracing the moment at hand.

Yeah, that feels right.

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