Monday I took the day off from work. Well, I planned on taking most of the day off from work. I wasn’t going to go into the office but I did have an important 3:30 meeting set up that I didn’t want to reschedule for fear of being seen as a flake or poor planner. As 3:30 was approaching I realized that I hadn’t had a true day off from work in nearly a month; I called and rescheduled my meeting. An overwhelming feeling of freedom, grace, and fresh air came over me. Oh yeah, who was my meeting with? A high school student who needed 30 minutes of my time to catch up on a few things from a retreat this past weekend. Like I said, really important.
I don’t know about you, but where I live we place a high value on stress. Here in the affluent suburbs of the East Bay we have this unspoken code that the more stressed you are, the more important you must be.
Stressed about your role in your company’s merger, kids’ basketball playoff schedule, three nonprofit boards you sit on, and shooting an 80 at last week’s charity golf tournament? Wow, I really admire how you can do all that you do.
This isn’t limited to just the adults in our lives, I see it in our high school kids too. We have kids, as young as junior high, who are spending 12-13 hours of their day filling and negotiating all their commitments at the constant encouragement of parents, coaches, tutors, directors, and yes, even pastors. It’s no wonder there is such reckless expressions of celebration among teens in the party scene. They’re trading 3 hours of “freedom” for their 80 hours of busyness and stress each week.
My small group bible study is reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This past Sunday Chan’s words on stress struck me pretty hard. He says that constant stress and worry wreaks of arrogance. Chan’s words, coupled with my fear of taking time off from work, brought me to a place of reflection on our constant pursuit of busyness, stress, and acquiring a false sense of importance.
We are obsessed with busyness and stress because we feel that it validates us. The more full our schedule is the more important we feel. The more deadlines we have looming the more needed we appear to be. The more worries I am carrying and/or trying to resolve for my friends, family, and work the more validated I feel. Now, naturally there will be seasons of life and circumstances that demand more of our time, energy, and generally cause our blood-pressure to remain at an elevated state. I’m not speaking to the natural ebbs and flows of life.
I’m talking about how we seek out over-involvement and cultivate life styles that are devoid of extended periods of peace. What I’ve realized is that when I’m living this way I have an exaggerated view of my own importance which shows itself in self centered planning, recreation, and particularly in worship. Sabbath rest and intentional free-time are our strongest weapons against the chaos and selfishness that Satan tempts us with every day. Sabbath Rest and Intentional Free-Time can be small yet powerfully significant proclamations that I am not defined by what I can produce. Rather I am defined by the movement and presence of God in my life. Restorative rest and free-time don’t just “happen”. We have to take the initiative to carve those times out and abide in them. Jesus never just happened to find himself alone without the crowds all around him and decided to rest since nothing else was happening. Jesus always left the crowds. He walked away. He constantly sought to strip himself of busyness and stress which cultivates a false sense of importance.
I pray that I, and we as addicts of busyness, may grow in our reflections of Jesus in such a way that we intentionally seek out regular Sabbath rest and free(dom) time. In doing so we will become receivers and barers of his peace that truly surpasses all understanding.