Rector's Ramblings July 22, 2020
Lately I have been reminded of the importance of rest days. Not rest days in the sense of a day off or a Sabbath day, although I’ve been diligent in taking one day off a week lately. I mean rest days of the sort you work into an exercise routine. More of a recovery day. Some days are considered heavy workout days, and it is a good idea to take it easy the day after to allow your body to recover. The science of recovery is always improving, too. Not only is it about resting, but there are technologies to help you recover faster, from compression clothing to rollers, and even certain foods.
My recent need for rest days hasn’t come from exercise, but from labor. A long time ago, I was no stranger to regular physical labor. When I was still in high school, I was loading trailers every weeknight for four hours. All we did was lift packages non-stop, building walls of boxes from floor to ceiling. One loader could easily fill more than a single 53-foot trailer in a shift. Back then, it was no big deal. I just showed up and did it, for years, and was largely none the worse for wear. Now that I’m older, worse and wear are both in the equation.
We have a few self-funded plans in progress for the back yard of the rectory, one of which involved removing a portion of our vegetable garden that doesn’t get enough light to produce anything. In its place, we decided to install a paver patio. I found a couple of pallets of leftover pavers for sale here on the island for about half the cost of buying them from a store. The only catch was getting them. All told, there were just over 1000 brick pavers (more than we need), all of which had to be moved by hand into a pickup truck (thank you, Harry Branch!), and then unloaded at the house.
Doing the math is a bit scary. The pavers weigh somewhere between four and a half and five pounds each. If we take the low end, that’s more than 4500 lbs. worth of pavers. Pavers that had to be handled twice, that is. Once to load them, and again to unload them. Nine thousand pounds of lifting, two bricks at a time. Mean father that I am, I put my girls to work, so it was a family affair with all of us pitching in, although Donna and I handled the bulk of the work. By the time the day was over, I was definitely worse and worn. Everything hurt. I suddenly remembered muscles I forgot I had. The next day was a recovery day by necessity. I didn’t do much of anything.
I did recover of course, although truth be told, it took more than a day or two. I was improved enough that this past weekend we managed to prep, level, and lay the first part of the pavers. Sore again, but not like the day we moved all those pavers in a few hours. This time, the work spread out over the weekend, too, so I didn’t get a recovery day until I went back to “work” on Tuesday. Meetings and sitting at the computer never felt so good.
I do enjoy working hard on projects, physically and otherwise. I like making progress and seeing something completed. I enjoy the feel of a tired body after knowing that I put real effort into something. Especially as I get older and I know there is a greater cost to such endeavors. I’m not complaining or claiming to be “old,” just naming an awareness that my body can’t do the things it used to do. I know, I know. “Just wait,” some of you are already saying out loud. I get it. The changes are real, however, and all of us need to come to grips with those changes as the combination of years and gravity makes lifting pavers harder.
Recovery days are important to let our body heal. In some ways they are a luxury. An emotional heavy lifting day might be followed up by many more, making recovery a long-term endeavor. The weight of living with discrimination or injustice may also be a reality we don’t get to take a break from. The burden of a pandemic seems unending these days; recovery from this will be a nice change whenever it comes. Admittedly, there are times when we can’t stop and rest in the ways we need to. When we can, however, we must.
Exertion isn’t always a bad thing. The heavy lifts of life exercise parts of us we may not know we had, parts we may not enjoy exercising, but they also remind us that we’re alive. The danger of not finding ways to recover at all is that it will lead to injury, to brokenness, or to collapse. The good news is that recovery is rarely about our need to do anything other than to let the body rest and heal itself. It’s miraculous in this regard. God created us to bear the wear and tear of life and then rejuvenate ourselves as cells change and reproduce, as muscles get stronger, and as callouses form. We’re often not the actors in recovery; God is.
In fact, we learn that recovery from anything and everything is bound up in the promise of the God who “makes all things new,” and redeems us and all the aches and pains we carry with us. In those instances where we can’t get away from them, we can ask God to carry them for a time. And God does. God picks up our burdens, as Jesus promises, a lot easier than we let go of them. When we do, though, we will find rest – recovery – for our souls. We just take it one day, one brick at a time.
I could never lift nine thousand pounds, never in a million years. The burden would simply be unbearable. But I did it. We did it, actually. One or two bricks at a time. The pattern that made it possible was a microcosm of what I’m describing; pick up, set down, recover. Repeat. I was sore afterwards, but I am also stronger. Such are the ways of the God who helps us do the impossible and overcome every challenge we face. Pick up, set down, repeat.
O merciful Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of thy servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember him, O Lord, in mercy, nourish his soul with patience, comfort him with a sense of thy goodness, lift up thy countenance upon him, and give him peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.