When was the last time you asked someone how their week has been, and they answered with “You know what, I really don’t have enough to do. I find myself playing computer games and being bored”? If your experience is like mine, the answer is ‘never’. Almost always people are telling me how busy they are (even the ones I suspect are only playing computer games!). And I find myself saying the same thing when I am asked as well. Being busy, whether with genuine or self-created or imagined things, shows us that we are important. We feel significant because we are busy. What we are really saying is that we are important people because we have so many things to do.
Really, when we make busyness a status symbol, we are falling into the idolatry of thinking that our worth is based on what we do. If only we fill our weeks up with so many things, then we are being productive and useful and important.
Today is my first day of my first ever Sabbatical from my job. It is a strange concept for those having never worked in ministry or in academic circles, so let me briefly explain. The Christian denomination I am employed in generously allows its pastors to have 3 months of paid Sabbatical every 7 years. This is not supposed to be a holiday, sitting on a beach somewhere, like Long Service Leave is intended to be. It is a break from the usual duties of being a pastor, the preaching, the pastoral care, the leadership burden, the administration, to focus on study and growth. It gives me the opportunity to have more input into my spiritual life and mind and less output for a while. I have already begun reading a good Christian book, working through my Greek grammar, and it is nice to focus on one thing at a time. If someone was to ask me how busy I was right now, I would have to answer ‘not very’ compared to my usual workload.
And really, that’s perfectly OK when you think about it. Am I for the next 6 weeks less important to God because I am not doing my usual job? Well, no. My significance to God is never based on what I do after all, it is all based on what Jesus has done for me. I saw that repeatedly when I recently worked through 1 Peter, with its emphasis on our inheritance won for us, our status as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God. All of these things are not of my doing. I don’t win extra points from God because I am busy, or because I do something others deem important.
God built the Sabbath into the framework of the Old Testament people of God partly for this reason. Now, I know the whole Sabbath thing is controversial theologically, but it is part of God’s plan that our lives are not always so busy. That they are not all about us doing more and achieving more. That they are sometimes simply about resting from our usual activities and appreciating that what God has done for us is not dependent on us and our achievements. That God in his grace keeps working when we stop.
I pray that these next 6 weeks will be a helpful time for me to relax, to focus on God more, and to be reminded that the world, and the church, do not depend ultimately on me. I am simply a servant of God; the church is God’s church and not mine.
Can you relax and choose not to be busy for a day, or a week when you have a holiday? Can you switch off? Or do you always feel guilty, that you need to keep doing things because it all depends on you, or because you need to prove something to yourself or others? It does not depend on you. The world was here before you were, and most likely will be here after you leave, whoever you are.
What a relief!