Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Activity, Weariness, and You

Another day begins and with it the frantic pace of daily life swings into full gear. We each prepare to engage in the activities that seem to rule our lives -- commuting, caring for children, working, going to meetings, shopping, paying bills, running errand, planning parties, working out, phoning family members, cooking, cleaning, and so forth…. Instinctively we feel and readily admit that we are over-committed. And yet somehow when we look at the roles we play and the tasks of each role, the very idea of reducing our responsibilities seems unlikely bordering on impossible.
As long as there were no roads, you had to interrupt a journey at nightfall. Then you had all the leisure in the world to recite psalms at the inn, to open a book, and to have a good talk with one another. But nowadays you can ride on these roads day and night and there is no peace any more.
-- Tales of the Hasidim
This constant exertion towards activity opens us further to the madness of consumerism and materialistic living.  An infinite cycle of weariness leading to openness to the promises of merchants and peddlers. Their subtle web persuades us that buying just one more thing, one more item, will relieve the pressure of our responsibilities that feel so burdensome and take so much of our time. All the modern conveniences, and at the end of the day, we still feel the assault. Our body is exhausted and our souls are empty. We lack the sense of significance and fulfillment that we thought we were supposed to have in life. We have misunderstood the role of activity in life.

Which Way Is Up Again?
Our model of activity and business is hardly new. Often, this ascribed solely to the compromises of living in the modern world. Sure we take phone calls about work in the middle of dinner, but that's just the trade-off for the convenience of a cell phone, right? We get bombarded with offers for Viagra, mortgages, and from helpful Nigerian millionaires, but that is balanced out by the convenience of email.  While we naturally assume that this is a modern issue, Jesus addressed this same concern centuries ago.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
--Luke 10-38-42
What a profound answer! Jesus was not proposing that we all sit around and do nothing. He was pointing out that we shouldn't allow business and activity to steal away the best part of life.

Sometimes just getting things done is a necessary part of life, but it is only a single aspect of the experience that is life. We need activities and we need accomplishment, but not at the expense of our relationships. The story about Mary and Martha should remind us that being over-committed is not about time, it is about our faith, about our growth, about our relationships.

A Story
A man was walking down the street and saw a lady weaving. She was so focused on the weaving that she didn't even look up as he drew near. The man said a cheerful hello and asked what she was making. The lady simply muttered that she did not have time to talk. But the man was insistent and again asked her what she was making. The lady refused to even look up, she just kept right on weaving and mumbled something about interruptions. The man tried again and still could not inspire a reaction. Finally, the man said simply, "Everything that you are worried about is in God's hands. You need only look to Him with reverance and be amazed." At this, the lady glanced up from her work and for just an instant she was reverently amazed.

The quickest way I know to keep faith vibrant and robust is to look up with reverence and be amazed. The most efficient way to grow in strength, is to worship.
If you see me on my knees, it's not because I'm weak.  I'm getting stronger.
-- Bob Carlisle
Nothing stops the onslaught from the world around us.  We will continue to be asked to take on new roles and responsibilities.  We will continue to look for ways to eliminate unnecessary activity in your life. We will continue to commit and to perform.  As you exert in your activities, ask yourself this:
  • Is this activity making me less or making me more?
  • Is this activity deepening my relationships or diminishing them?

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