If you spend much time with me, you’ll quickly learn that I am always on the move. Rest doesn’t come naturally. If you encounter me on the highway, I’m likely the guy passing you in the left lane. If our family needs to be in the car at 8:00 A.M., I’ll be frustrated at 8:01 A.M. if we aren’t buckled in. When I go to the grocery store, I map out in my head the most efficient way to find what I need and get out. The same mentality extends to my life in the office. I live by my checklists at work, which are often too ambitious for a single day.
To be honest, I don’t hate the busyness. Much of the time, I even enjoy it. I look forward to Mondays. I love checking things off my lists. I look forward to working with my team to knock out the next big project. I find joy in it.
As you’d imagine, this can be dangerous. I often overcommit and I burn out without realizing it until weeks later. But like a car driving 100 mph downhill, the smallest bump in the road can send me careening out of control.
Forced to Detox
In late February, I hit one of those bumps. I caught the flu and it knocked the wind out of me. I had not felt this sick in over twenty years. I ran a fever for days. But worse than the pain was the isolation and the stillness. It felt like God was detoxing me from my calendar.
In that forced stillness, much like an addict suffering withdrawal, some ugly stuff came out of me. Indiscriminate anger bubbled up. My anxiety piqued higher than any stressful day in the office. The lack of control was unbearably frustrating. At one point, I cried in the fetal position on our bed. Even with a 102 fever, I was still restlessly pacing around the house. I missed being productive. I missed my coworkers. I needed to be around people and feel accomplished again.
My first day back in the office felt amazing, even if my body was so drained that I needed a nap by mid-afternoon. But my recovery didn’t last very long. Just a few weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic brought me back home all over again.
Busyness as an Idol
For many of us, the busyness is a source of comfort. Our over-scheduled calendars remain a source of pride. It feels good when others need us. If we’re not careful, we even find our value in it. It becomes part of our identity.
Meanwhile, we keep moving. We ignore the ugliness in our hearts. If something bothers us, we paint over it with another meeting. If someone makes us feel inadequate, we accomplish the next big thing.
This isn’t healthy. It isn’t God’s design for us. In addition to the physical and psychological toll this takes, it’s detrimental to our souls.
Work is God’s Design
Work was part of God’s original design for humanity. Many people mistakenly assume it was a product of the Fall. But before Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them a job. Notice what it says in Genesis 1:28:
God blessed them and said to them, “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.”
This is a massive undertaking. God tasked them with cultivating and ruling over all other living things. They’re not dealing with a box garden in their backyard. They’ve been given dominion over everything that grows, crawls, swims, and walks.
But it’s important to notice what it says just before this command, in verse 27.
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Before God gave us our job description, he first gave us our identity. He impressed his own image on us. We don’t work for approval from God or others. We work from his approval. We were never designed to work so that we can discover our worth. God gave us work within the context of the worth that’s he has already bestowed on us.
But when sin shattered creation, it distorted work’s role in our lives. Suddenly, we read verses 27 and 28 backwards. We work to gain identity and acceptance. We use it to obtain the very thing verse 27 already offers – our identity. When this happens, it becomes an idol. And like any other idol that tempts us off course, we fill our lives with as much of it as possible.
But work can’t answer that question. Outside of God himself, nothing can. We have to rebel against the idol, and we do that by resting.
Rest is God’s Design
On day six of creation, God made us. But it’s no coincidence that he rested on day seven. Just as we’re tempted to think that work is a product of the Fall, it’s easy to think the same of our need for rest.
God designed us with limitations. He constrained the day to just 24 hours. He made our bodies dependent on food for energy. He gave us a need for sleep.
By resting on the seventh day, God modeled his intent for our lives. When we neglect that sabbath rest in favor of work, we rebel against God’s design
As one of my college professors once said, rest is spiritual. When we rest, we’re acknowledging our limitations and embracing our weaknesses. We’re recognizing that we can’t do it all. In the space it creates, we’re refocusing and worshiping the One who doesn’t share those same limitations. Both work and rest, when put in proper context, are acts of worship. They allow us to both serve and worship God.
Learning to Recalibrate
These past few months have profoundly challenged me. COVID-19 has stripped away a major idol from my life. God has used it to expose what has been hiding behind my busy schedule. It has unearthed insecurities and pride that I had used my calendar to ignore. But as I’ve continued to detox, I’ve discovered a level of rest I’ve not let myself enjoy over the past few years. In that place, I’ve encountered God’s grace, love, and patience.
In the end, work is good in its proper place. But we don’t serve a hurried God. Embrace the hidden blessings in this quarantine. Spend more time with the kids. Use the time that was once part of your commute to be with your Creator. Recalibrate your routines to ensure there is proper margin in your life.
Use this time to detox and rest in the secure and loving arms of your loving God.