Discover more from Contents and Containers
Saying no to your employer and other ways to rest in Jesus
Everyone I know seems to say they are busy and so stressed out (like that terrible Twenty One Pilots song). In fact, some even pride themselves on their busyness and their overworked-ness. We are obsessed with “productivity,” “working hard,” “having long hours,” and contradictorily “efficiency.” There’s something that we value about being overworked, especially if we’re white collar people, and there’s something we value about being perceived as hard workers. My Internet friend Ted Bauer calls it the “temple of Busy,” we literally tend to worship busyness. People are lying about their 80-hour work week. People feel the need to “fake” being busy, or to extend their work hours, because we value overworked-ness in the U.S. Meanwhile Uber is manipulating its drivers to work more!
That’s a problem in an era that has merged “work and play” since you can do so much “work” from outside of the office. We are no longer “working” or “off.” We are expected to be available all the time—in fact the French have a law that prevents employers from Emailing you during hours that you aren’t scheduled to work. We don’t have an understanding of the importance of rest and as a result we devalue labor too. No one wins in this weird battle.
And you know what else especially suffers? Our faith, our true life, our true self, not only because we need Sabbath, solitude, and silence for it, but we can develop an unhealthy relationship with holiness and discipline, with holiness and working too hard. We might think the most hardcore Christians are the ones who are super tired and super beaten down. We might answer the world’s demands and conflate them with God’s.
We might think that our spiritual discipline and right behavior is what saves us. We might resist showing when we fail, and when we come short as a result. Jesus and his grace ended the rat race. You don’t have to work to earn favor. You don’t have to pretend to work an 80-hour spiritual week. You can rest in God’s grace, and I really mean rest.
For a few nights in a row last week, I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Five hours or so a night. The day was just too packed. By the end of the stretch, my actual faith suffered. I don’t know about y’all, but I tend to have existential crises when I don’t sleep enough, so my faith almost immediately suffers. It’s not good. Not only am I tired, I am wondering about my existence! I feel overwhelmed. I work less efficiently. Tasks take longer, to-do lists grow, it gets worse and worse. I feel the need to work later at night, I sleep less, and the cycle repeats. Ugh.
How do we break the cycle? How can we actually find enough rest so that we don’t think things like prayer, retreating, solitude, worship are burdens but rather things that lighten the load? If we’re not careful we’ll think worshiping on Sundays and being a part of a cell might just feel like more demands. Your cell leader can feel like a boss. You might need a break from the “rest” that is inherent to our work.
Jesus specializes in providing rest. His burden is light. His yoke is easy. It’s true that following him will feel difficult and grueling at times, but I hope you also find it an opportunity to rest, be made whole, and receive the transformation of Jesus.
Take note, activists, your good action won’t save you (and it won’t save us). Take a breather. The campaign will survive. I think people should be moral, but more in the sense that "you are light so walk as children of light,” rather than "you are not light enough and the world is dark as a result. "
That doesn’t mean we should be lazy or not have a good work ethic. But we should also find times to rest in Jesus. And also to have fun.
Fasting is making personal limits on the control others have on your time. Where are the spaces that you can carve out to be renewed by God daily? You don’t need to achieve anything, you need to drink living water.
Schedule a retreat. Bring a book of fiction. Tap a nap. The Way of Jesus website has a list of great retreat centers. Don’t take the weekend to do it, either. Use a vacation day. Tell your husband to watch the kids (and take a day of himself).
Occupy your mind, heart, and body with something besides daily demands. Play a word game. Read a poem. Take a run. Master bread-baking. Have a cup of tea.
Make limits in your “professional” life for “spiritual needs.” Don’t overwork. Figure out what your limits are. And then consider how you can serve God with your increased capacity. Do it out of freedom, not obligation. There’s no timecard.