Last weekend, my family’s plans fell through because of some unexpected circumstances. We had a whole day’s events scheduled, and none of it ended up happening.
After our plans were canceled, the cashier at the grocery store asked me what I had planned for the day, and I responded honestly: “Nothing.” He responded by saying he had detailed plans to paint with oil on canvas while listening to classical music. It was a funny exchange, so I posted it to Facebook.
After I posted the anecdote, a few friends commented about how “nice” and “relaxing” it must have been to have nothing to do. (Granted, with three kids, we never actually have nothing to do. We just had nothing planned).
Here’s where things get uncomfortably honest: For some strange reason, I felt the need to defend my unstructured and unscheduled day. Correctly or not, I perceived a subtext in those comments. “Gee, it must be nice to have a day with nothing planned. The rest of us have important stuff to do, you lazy slacker.”
The whole thing reminded me of a Cadillac commercial that played during the Olympics, in which a well-dressed actor explains why workaholism is one of the cornerstones of the American value system.
It suddenly hit me that I define myself, at least partly, by how busy I am and how much stuff I get done. Perhaps you can relate. Ask yourself how you responded the last time somebody said, “How are you doing?” It doesn’t take a psychic to guess that most of you reading this included the word “busy” in your answer.
Why do we feel such a compulsion to prove that we’re busy all the time? For that matter, why are we so busy all the time? Why do we fill our schedules to the point of inducing panic attacks?
Here’s why: We Americans measure our worth in terms of what we get done.
Strangely, being “busy” is not listed among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It doesn’t say, “Love, joy, peace, busyness, frenetic activity, living in CrazyTown, etc.”
I’ve often wondered why one of God’s first and most important commandments to Israel was to take a Sabbath, a day off from work. For that matter, why did God insist that the people observe a sabbatical year, in which they refrained from working the fields? It’s astounding, as if God just expected them to trust Him to meet their needs!
Now don’t get me wrong here: They still worked six days of every week. People are made to work. We need to work in order to reflect God’s character. He brought order from chaos, and created structure for our world and our lives. When we work, we reflect Him on a small scale. Laziness is no better than workaholism.
But we’re also made to rest. And I think we’re often afraid to rest, because we’re afraid people will think we’re just lazy.
Resting, though, reminds us that God is in control. Resting reminds us that God keeps working, even when we stop. It reminds us that He can provide for us, even if we sit down for a few minutes.
All that to say, let’s avoid the trap of thinking that busyness is equivalent to godliness. God doesn’t love you any less if your Saturday plans consist of “nothing.” To the contrary, when we rest, we have the opportunity to think about God’s character, to worship Him, and to trust Him to provide for all of our needs. So a day off is nothing to be embarrassed about after all.
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