Always on the Go
In our always-on culture, it’s easy to feel like you always need to be producing. When I’m at work, I’m always looking for the next item to cross off my to-do list. And then I get home and the tasks may change but my mindset doesn’t. Clean the house, do the laundry, touch up paint on the wall, trim the bushes, take the kids to the park, return the clothes that didn’t fit, pay the utility bill, schedule dinner with friends… I could go on and on and on. From the moment I wake up to the moment I lay my head down, I feel like I need to be doing something productive. I need to be moving the ball of my life forward.
Perhaps you can relate. Most people I talk to have that feeling of too much to do and not enough time. Even in this pandemic, after the first few weeks of feeling out of sorts with nothing to do, we found new ways to fill our time. Sure our kids’ activities were cancelled in the evenings, but that didn’t stop us from tackling house projects we had been putting off or taking up new hobbies like sewing or gardening that sucked up huge amounts of time.
Never Fully Recharged
Ironically, while we like to think we are strong and efficient and able to be 110% productive each day, if you are anything like me, you probably spend more time than you like to admit sitting in a chair or lying in bed soaking up mindless media from a glowing screen. Our idea of being fully productive actually drains our batteries more than we might imagine and it leaves us instead reaching for the remote – sometimes before we even cross one item off our to-do list.
Perhaps we are doing things all wrong. Rather than thinking we are all super human and capable of ceaseless work, what if we acknowledged our humanity, our finiteness, and our need for real rest. Not just dream-about-the-one-week-of-vacation-rest that you probably cancelled during Covid, but real, recharging, life-giving rest.
The Value of Seasons
Here is where we can take a lesson from the woods. As a kid we all learned about the four seasons and how trees bud their leaves in spring and then lose their leaves in the fall. But there is actually so much more that goes on as the seasons turn.
You see, sometimes the tree is moving energy in the form or sap and sugars from the roots up to the leaves to grow taller and reach for more sunshine. Their roots and branches actually grow the most in the late spring when water is abundant. In the summer it is actually “breathing” through the leaves as it photosynthesizes the sun’s rays to make more sugars. Then as summer turns to fall, the trees prepare for the inevitable cooldown and dormancy of another winter. The trees stop using the sugar to produce more growth and instead store those sugars in little buds for the following spring, knowing that winter is approaching. They accept it is impossible to be constantly growing, constantly producing. So they settle into a rhythm. You see, a tree’s growth is not at all constant. It ebbs and it flows, hence why we can count the rings of a tree to tell how old it is. The growth in late spring produces light colored wood while the summer growth with less water creates darker wood.
We see this same example of ebbs and flows in how we should do work set for us by God himself. From the earliest pages of our Bible, we see God create humanity to be productive, but also to take time to rest. In Genesis 1:28 God gives us the command to, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” And then in Genesis 2:2-3 we see how even God rested from his labor: By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Not only did God show us a pattern of weekly rest, but then as he gave the law to the Israelites, he specified special holy days and annual festivals for the people to come together and celebrate (Leviticus 23:1-44). He set aside time to stop producing, stop trying to be always-on, but to rest, to recover, and to prepare for yet another year of planting and harvesting.
Enjoy the Often Changing Seasons of Your Life
If this pandemic has taught us anything, hopefully it is the value of healthy rhythms and rest in your life. It is OK to go home after a day of work and not try to tackle a single project or rush any kids to activities. But rather than vegging out in front of a screen, find something beneficial to really recharge your batteries. Enjoy a night on the deck or a walk down a trail. Have dinner with a friend or unwind with good conversation around the table with your family. Yes, in some seasons you will be busy with activity, but other seasons you need to step away and slow down.
Following the schedule God has set for us, each week, you need to take a sabbath and truly breath. Connect with God, thank him for the work you have done, and recharge. Annually, you should find time to be “dormant” from your job. It’s healthy for you to remember the company or organization you work for will survive without you. And it’s freeing to let go of the pressure to always be producing.
God created seasons which the created world around us naturally follows. The question is, will we learn this wisdom from the woods and follow it’s lead?