The Weekly Gift I Usually Refuse
by Kelly Wright
Being busy, crazy busy, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a little girl I remember feeling a sense of urgency to go and do – the more, the merrier.
Dance, piano, sports, school, girl scouts, 4-H, church and all its many, many activities. As a young girl, my parents had limits for me, but as soon as I could add things to my life, I did, and have done to the point my plate has been overflowing most of my life.
Twelve years ago, my life looked like a constantly moving hamster wheel. I’d start the week already exhausted as I looked at everything on my calendar and to-do list. I worked full time as a counselor, had two active kids with sports and school, I volunteered at church and a crisis pregnancy center. My day off was full doing things to keep our house going and my family fed. Every minute of the day was filled with something and even my downtime felt depleting.
The really crazy thing is that I was crazy busy with good things…important things…"living the dream" things. But all these good, important things were leaving me in a state of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion…not just tired, but what Ruth Haley Barton calls "dangerously tired".
She says, "The difference between good tired and dangerous tired is like the difference between the atmosphere conditions that produce harmless spring rain clouds and those that result in the eerie green tint of the sky that portends the possibility of a tornado. When the sky is an angry green, you're not quite sure what's going on, but something just doesn’t feel right and you know you had better pay attention. One atmospheric condition is normal and predictable, the other is risky and volatile."
In the depths of my soul, I knew something wasn't right, but the challenge I faced with being dangerously tired was that I tried to fix it by adding more things to my life.
Mark 8:36 Jesus asked, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”
I was ‘gaining the world’, but at the cost of my soul.
I’m sure I’m not alone here. So, for those of us who find our lives spinning out of control - How does this happen? When does living the dream become more like running a rat race??
There’s a great article by Tonny Crabbe entitled, "Why are we busy." Let me give a disclaimer – it’s an article that hurt my feelings and convicted me greatly.
Crabbe gives us three reasons why we are so busy:
The first reason we are busy is that being busy is easier.
Busy is the easy option. We are busy because we don’t make the tough choices. We allow the world and our inbox to set our agenda, rather than think for ourselves. It’s easier to simply react; to choose to try to do everything, rather than make the difficult decisions and “un-choose” things; it takes more courage to do less.
It's easier to be busy...to live life reactively, do it all, all the tyranny of the urgent to lead our lives. It is hard to set boundaries on our time and our activities...so we don't. Busy is easier.
The second reason is that busy is avoidance.
All those things you keep meaning to do – those things that will make a real difference in your life and career – are hard to do. We aren't often fans of the hard to do.
So, in the heat of the moment, when we have to choose between easy work and hard work, between skimming through email or grappling with that complex project, we more often than not choose the easy, busy, activity as a form of avoidance.
We throw ourselves into frenetic activity and give ourselves the perfect excuse for not doing the big-thinking stuff. In being busy we get to feel productive while procrastinating!
Busy is the great avoidance – keeps us focused on the unimportant *social media for me* and distracted and keeps us from doing the important work – individually, relationally, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, occupationally.
The third reason we stay busy is that being busy is an addiction.
Crabbe reports that there is a small squirt of the cocaine-like dopamine released each time you look at your email; and Google searches release opiate-like substances.
Anyone else find yourself reaching for your first fix of email, before your first fix of caffeine each day? Or fighting with the temptation to whip our phones out for a quick hit of social media or text, even when we know we shouldn’t (on average every 6.5 minutes)?
Busy is an addiction – our brains like to keep busy because of the jolts of brains chemicals that are released when we live frantic lives.
What’s the antidote to this crazy, busy life? God gives us the perfect gift each week to recalibrate and rest. It’s the gift of Sabbath.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “Sabbath is the most precious present humankind has received from the treasure house of God.”
Sabbath is a weekly, 24-hour pause where we stop and take our hand off the plow of work. On Sabbath we rest and trust God to care for the world and care for us. It’s a day of delight where we are free to worship, rest, and delight in the world and relationships God has given us.
As lovely as this gift is, it’s a gift I usually don’t receive.
What does Sabbath look like? I have a friend who has one rule for her Sabbath – if I wouldn’t do it on Christmas, I won’t do it on Sabbath. I love that boundary.
So, Sabbath is something God continues to invite us into each week. What would a Sabbath look like for you this week? You may start with thinking about Sabbath as you do Christmas – except without the gifts under the tree. But I think you’ll find as I am finding, the gift is much greater than anything you could wrap and put under the tree. The gift is freedom and rest for our souls.