In Praise of More Free Space on Your Calendar
- Aaron D'Anthony Brown Contributing Author
- 2020 3 Nov
There are times in life when schedules become jampacked with work, volunteering, our partner’s commitments, our children’s commitments, and other tedious must-do items. After the daily grind begins in the morning and concludes at night, we often find ourselves wiped out.
The moment our head hits the pillow, if we’re lucky, we fall right asleep. Even if we don’t sleep well (or at all), we're bound to hear that annoying sound eventually...as the alarm clock rings yet again. A new day. The same you. The same routine. All over again.
Days can sometimes blend together with this sort of lifestyle. If you know the feeling of workaholism like I do, filling up a calendar is very easy. Convincing ourselves not to be so busy is far more difficult.
The issue with workaholism is that the desire to get things done is constant. There is always something to do! And if we are always doing something, then rest is continuously postponed.
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
We have the ability to make ourselves weary from all of our unending activity. Not only does this verse from Jesus encourage rest, but the Bible says that God himself rested from the creation of the universe on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2).
If God is choosing to rest, then clearly rest must be important. Turns out rest has a number of benefits—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The lack of rest also carries some impact.
Physically, we're likely to experience sluggishness, droopy eyes, and difficulty focusing. Emotionally, we could experience mood swings.
More significant are the effects on our spiritual lives. A busy life and lack of rest can easily take our attention away from God. How can we heavily involve ourselves with work from dawn to dusk and still say we're making time for God?
Connecting with others—including God—requires time. Time away from work.
Jesus prayed to God in the solitude of a quiet place. To connect with God, he tabled all of his obligations elsewhere.
Workaholism makes these moments of rest feel like inconveniences. More sadly, we often feel very accomplished in the moment, until burnout sets in.
My image of a workaholic (the person I see in the mirror) is someone always moving. Their feet continuously step or fidget. Even when they sit at the table for dinner with their family (if they do), they keep moving.
They keep figuratively marching even in bed, which is why they can’t sleep. And when they do sleep and the dreams set in, they’re not resting there, either.
You get the picture.
Filling our schedules to the brim is tempting because we get to feel very accomplished with our earthly tasks and desires. In reality, we do ourselves a disservice and separate ourselves from God in the way he wants to connect with us.
In praise of more free space on your calendar, here are 3 benefits to cutting back on your to-do list, so you can actually do more for the kingdom of God.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Arthit Longwilai
1. Connect with God
The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
When we choose solitude with God over the busyness of our daily lives, we get to experience a divine renewal.
God’s offer of renewal is presented in the ideas of green pastures and quiet waters. Quiet waters are oppositional to raging rapids. They are still. Slow. Green pastures showcase fertile ground, contrary to any sort of rocky rough terrain.
“He lets me” implies that God gives us the ability to rest in these comfortable places, free of the world’s cares. Are we to deny this gift?
There is a belief that an abundance of work will help us to achieve our dreams. While there is some truth to this idea—reaching goals requires effort on our part—all the effort is not to be from us.
This verse in Psalms also talks about God guiding us. God guiding us indicates that there is some level of control that we do not have over ourselves.
There are things for us to do, and things for God to do.
When we maintain the proper perspective of God and work, we are able to better connect with him, allowing him to guide us to the areas where he wants us. Once there, we then have the task of completing work. But whatever work we do, let it be for his glory.
2. Connect with Self
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. – Psalm 127:2
If the list of to-dos is forever growing, when do we ever have time to stop and rest? We don’t.
The end result is stress, anxiety, and burnout. Whatever we do we should do with the Lord in mind. Stress, anxiety, and burnout are not qualities God desires for us (Jeremiah 29:11). To overburden ourselves is to act in vain, not in accordance with the Lord.
One lesson I have realized in my own tendency to overstuff my to-do list is that in my abundance of activity, I never spend time tending to my needs. My actual needs. Instead of connecting with God, I work. Instead of connecting with others, I work. Instead of connecting with myself, I work.
Free time is dismissed as a luxury. Hobbies go neglected. My favorite show remains unwatched. I put away my readings books because I just don’t have the time. Or do I?
In the moments when I take time to pause and tend to my needs, I find I am much happier. A happier me is able to serve God more and others. And work is actually more productive because instead of burnout, I perform tasks more wholeheartedly.
Rest has rejuvenated me.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto
3. Connect with Others
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:11
When I get busy, conversation with others tends to be very brief and far less personal. Instead of checking on them about recent struggles or weekend activities, I get the information relevant to what I need and continue on my way.
Can you relate to this?
Too much work makes conversation with people feel like chore, and not the kind I want to complete. The kind that is in the way of what I feel driven to do.
The Bible talks repeatedly about loving others, but when I put the importance of work above my neighbor, I am neglecting that commandment.
With the right perspective, I can remember: God is more concerned with how I served others and less about how many times I received a raise at work.
A Prayer for Free Space and Rest
With this fresh perspective on rest, I want to encourage you today find a time of stillness. Whenever you can, even now, take a moment to pause and connect with God. Here is a prayer to get you started.
My mind and body have been burdened with work. I wish to better connect with you, others, and myself...but sometimes I feel too inclined to "eat the bread of anxious toil." Sometimes I work for money, other times I work for recognition, but too often I work for me. God, please help me to see you in my work.
And when work is done, please help me to see you in my rest.
You have set the example for resting, and I want to do a better job following. Please guide me in emulating your behavior. I ask that you lead me to those green pastures and quiet waters. Help me to know and remember the benefits of rest.
Anytime I wander away and seem to be returning to busybody ways, please nudge me back in the direction that brings me closer to you. Amen.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Lionello
Aaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”