As I sit in my kitchen on the second day of spring, snow is falling with all of the force of a torrential rainstorm. Four inches of white fluff stand on the deck rail and along the back of
our patio chairs as if the furniture were trying to build snow-walls to keep the recently-returned robins out. The ivy growing on our tallest tree and the long needles of the fir trees by the road seem spray-frosted; so picture perfect they look artificial.
Thirty minutes ago the telltale, jubilant shrieks of neighborhood children interrupted the work that I was trying to get finished (admittedly half-heartedly). They were sledding down the hill behind the church for the first time this season, and with their arrival my focus on my job departed. I gave into the desire to join them in the snow.
It was great to catch up. It was great to watch their kids make the first cutting trails down the hill. It was great...until the guilt set in.
You work from home, my brain shouted at me, you should go back inside and get things done! You've got a blog post to work on and a sermon to outline; you've got Holy Week to plan and meetings to schedule. Go back inside you lazy bum!
Such is the general refrain of my brain when I'm working from home and there's a lull in my productivity. Honestly, such is the general refrain from my brain when I'm not working. Period. It seems to think that we've never quite done enough. It seems to think that resting - that sabbath - would somehow make me a bad pastor, no matter what the Bible might say. It seems to think that we should be working all of the time until all of the work is done - so basically forever.
I gave into my brain - it was a Wednesday morning after all - and went back inside. Not much later my phone rang. It was a pastoral call, and the person on the other end said, "I know that I need to trust God, but I feel like I'm not doing enough. I feel like there's something more that I should be doing!"
"What more could you be doing?" I asked.
"That's the thing - I don't know."
And I found myself saying, "I think that you've done more than enough."
The person said, "It's always like this for me. I always feel like I should be doing more, no matter how much I've done. Is that a human thing?"
"Well, it's certainly a thing for me."
When we hung up I found myself mulling over what I would have said if I hadn't felt like I was preaching to myself. I would have said that God doesn't provide for us based on our own actions, but as a gift of grace - that you don't have to do more and more and more to earn God's favor. I would have said that we have an unhealthy culture when it comes to 'doing' in this country, that leads us into a vicious cycle of over-work. I would have said that this person's worth was not dependent on how much this person did.
I would have said all of those things - except that I knew that I realized that I was preaching to myself. And the ugly truth is that I still tie my worth to what I accomplish. I still feel less-than when I'm not getting things done. I still feel like God might let everything fall apart if I don't do enough. And the only way to grow out of that is to practice sabbath more diligently - not just as a day once a week, but in moments and hours when I cease doing. And that, to me, is terrifying.
But the kids are back out on the hill - and their voices are filled with pure joy. I want to experience that pure, childlike joy once in a while too. So maybe facing that fear is worth it. Maybe facing that fear is another step on the journey to the abundant life that Christ promised.
We did finally go out for a walk - after our work was finished!!