Athletic Kids-Rest for the Spirit
Rest is underrated by kids. A Johns Hopkins study shows kids need 8 to 8 ½ hours of sleep a night, and that increases by another hour into the teen years. Spiritual rest is underrated as well.
Do your kids or the kids you teach in church participate in sports? Or do they have a favorite athletic activity? If so, you have an opportunity to use it as an illustration to help kids understand spiritual health.
Athletes want every possible advantage in order to do well. My kids are always trying to come up with the best protein shake or recovery drink, the best exercise to improve that weak muscle, and the best technique to master a particular skill. Great attention to even small details can make all the difference. In this current series, we’re looking at the areas of diet, exercise, skills and rest one at a time to think about how to use them as illustrations for kids to grow spiritually.
So far in this series, we looked at diet and how our spirit needs feeding as much as our body does. Then we looked at spiritual exercise where faith grows stronger with daily “reps” or repetitions of applied truth. Then we looked at spiritual skills or disciplines.
Today I’ll be talking about rest, which is probably the least appreciated by our athlete children. They feel invincible and often stay up too late. Early school days cut into their rest. A Johns Hopkins study shows kids need 8 to 8 ½ hours of sleep a night, and that increases by another hour into the teen years. Besides the benefit of physical rest, adequate sleep is good for brain development and prevents depression.
Ask kids how their day went and see if you can help them make the connection on their own between a good day and adequate rest. A good practice is to have their devices on a charger in your bedroom by their bedtime so looking at a device doesn’t keep them awake. In our house, kids were held responsible for the device being where it should be, without having to be reminded. While connecting adequate physical rest to good health, you can help them make the connection spiritually.
You know, God gave us a wonderful gift when He gave us a sabbath day of rest. Jesus said the sabbath was made for man, not man made for the sabbath. In other words, God gave it because it’s good for us, not to burden us with a religious tradition. Taking a day to worship and get additional physical, mental and emotional rest is good for the soul, and good for the spirit. Going to church, relaxing in fellowship with family and friends, taking a nap, taking a walk in nature and praying aloud, reading a book, calling grandparents, writing in a journal, family game night–these are practices which will re-energize and refresh the spirit.
Sadly, in many homes, Sunday has become a catch up day for work, and coaches aren’t getting pushback for scheduling games and practices. I encourage you to set an example your kids can remember when they get older. Resting on Sunday prepares you for the week like a good night’s sleep prepares you for the next day. It gives space for relationships to thrive in your home and with God.
Leaders know there needs to be consistent reflection on ourselves and where we are going. A daily rest before God, called a devotional time, is a great way to assess what God is doing in my life, and how He wants me to grow. Writing a summary in a journal once a week will multiply the benefits. If you can teach this restful skill to your children, it will take far less time than the rehabilitative efforts you’ll spend if they are not able to assess themselves. Teach them to answer these questions for themselves: what emotions have I been feeling? What motives or attitudes do those emotions reveal? What does God’s Word say about the situation and feelings I’ve been having? How can I apply that with correction or celebration?
Praying through a personal assessment brings rest to the spirit and body. Psalm 16:8, 9 says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”
May you and your kids enjoy the rest God gifted you.
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