Breaking the Great Addiction
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:
they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.
I’m on the last leg of a race that’s spanned several months, a race to keep up with two jobs, four teens, and all the other responsibilities that make up life. Today I’m pausing and evaluating . . .
There’s an anesthetic quality to busyness.
Activity demands more activity. Weariness requires more labor. We live in a culture that, generally speaking, values quantity over quality, that supersizes everything in life and “supersizing life” requires incessant activity. In my experience, the level of activity itself turns into an addiction that is self-necessitating: Doing this requires that I do this . . . and so on. There is no end to the cycle, no getting off the merry-go-round until we’re flung off by a life-defining crisis or a determined choice.
There’s a problem with doing when doing is its own end.
Slothfulness is contrary to the nature of God and results in a life marked by destruction, but the productivity addiction is destructive, too. These two extremes seem like they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum: The sluggard’s vineyard is covered in weeds and its wall is broken down while the diligent person tends his property and reaps a harvest. But when productivity is isolated from the purposes of God, it becomes nothing more than the pursuit of more. It grows from the same root of selfishness as slothfulness and shares the same mind-numbing effects: a stoppage of thinking, seeking, and concentrating on the most important things.
There’s a fear in stopping.
When we derive our sense of worth from the things we do, we cannot break the addiction to doing. Ask five people, “Who are you?” and you’ll probably get five answers that tell you something about a job or a hobby that gives shape to their identity. Stopping puts us in a position where we must derive our identity from something outside our activities. That’s scary, because we’ve spent so long identifying with what we do that we are often little more than a husk of a person wrapped in a thousand pursuits. Take the pursuits away, and there’s not much left.
So this is my prayer:
Father, untroubled by the things that trouble me
Yet concerned with every detail concerning me--
Father, beyond the tyranny of time
Yet providing every moment every breath for every creature--
Father, my Father,
Who by The Son called me His son--
Help Your son
to break the addiction to busywork
when Kingdom work is what is needed,
to break the back of selfishness
that drives me to more and more,
to break the broken identity
I gain from doing,
realizing the identity I already have--
(a son through the Son)
with a purpose as big as eternity
and eternal resources to match
(resources like peace in place of sleepless nights
and clear thinking instead of harried confusion
and grace when pressures link with anxiety
to form a godless concoction of stress).
Help me to work, but not for my kingdom,
To do, but not for my ego,
To live, but not for myself.
“When the cares of my heart are many,
Your consolations cheer my soul”
Photos afternote: Our garden in early summer bloom--
All the care is taken by the gardener: the garden only responds to his care.
© June 2013 by Robert G. Robbins