OK here’s my best advice for 2021. Ready for it?
In 2020, COVID-19 reset the planet and for many of us it should have been a wake-up call to the reality of the hurried and exhausted lives we were living. I am currently listening to The Power of Vulnerability by Dr. Brene Brown and totally enjoying it. She manages to share powerful truths in a way that is both funny and thought-provoking. Highly recommended! She discusses 10 guideposts for wholehearted living and one of them is “cultivating play and rest and letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth”. I found this to be a powerful guide to a better quality of life. But what struck a deeper chord with me was how much more relevant this is in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was as if we simply refused to shut down, so the universe hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete and forced us to end all our tasks. Then the universe said, “Your move.”
Unfazed, we replied, “Pffft. We re-launch all our tasks aaaand we add the Zoom upgrade on top of that. So there!”
I believe the universe is now shaking its head and saying, “Puny humans.”
Suffice to say, I don’t think we’ve gotten the message. We are addicts. Addicted to busyness and distraction. Brene has already called us out on one of the ingredients that can keep us addicted to lives of busyness and distraction:
- A lack of self-worth. We are constantly trying to produce enough to gain the approval of others and justify our existence to ourselves.
I would proffer a second:
- Pain avoidance. Keeping busy is just another means of avoiding the internal demons that haunt our souls when things get quiet. We haven’t faced them, and we don’t want to. So, we keep busy.
The point is our exhausting pace of life is just a symptom of our brokenness or incompleteness. This is not an indictment. This is just the reality of being human. We all have brokenness that needs healing. We each have our unique brand of fractures and some of us are further along the path to healing than others but none of us are issue-free. We do have a choice though… a significant and powerful choice: will we continue as we are or press into the work of inner healing?
I believe that this is the gift of 2020 to humanity – a wake-up call to action. We got a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror and having seen the truth we are faced with a choice. The question is do we want to be more? Will we choose to be more? Enter, the second part of my advice:
I always remember a powerful perspective that I heard from Dr. Ruth Haley Barton that went something like this, “A powerful yes, enables you to say no.” She explained that in the work of doing less we need to be able to say no to things, even good things, and what gives us that power to say no is a strong yes to something else. Perhaps we are asked to attend a social event for work but it’s the same night as we promised to watch a movie with our daughter. Usually, we rationalize that we can always do the movie another time or we have to show up to get a chance at that promotion or maybe we tragically try to do both. But if we have a powerful yes to the kind of parent we want to be, or the kind of relationship we want to have with our children, then saying no to the social event is really saying YES to something bigger!
I want to leave you with some powerful things to say YES to and reasons to do less in 2021. I have found these to be useful in my life. Perhaps one or two will resonate with you:
- Doing less is an act of faith. Saying no to some activities or responsibilities is saying YES to a life of supernatural productivity. When the Israelites observed the Sabbath in the desert for 40 years, they had to believe that every Friday (or whatever day before Sabbath) God would supernaturally send more manna than usual and that it would keep for the next day unlike all the other days of the week when it would become full of maggots. Saying no to work was saying, “YES God I believe in Your provision!” Later on, they had to believe that God would take care of the survival of their businesses that would close for Sabbath while the competition remained open. The same can be said of us today. If we choose to do less (even observe a Sabbath, like I do) in obedience to God’s call to rest, then we enter into a beautifully supernatural faith-walk with God as He steps in to do more with less than we could do working ourselves ragged. I have seen this at work in my life and I know you will too if you try it.
- Doing less is an act of obedience to your call. The most important call on our lives is not what God has called us to do but who God has called us to be. If we have a big YES for living a life fully authentic to who God has called us to be then saying no to anything that is less than that, no matter how attractive, is easy. It is also a much more joyful way to live. Doing things that just aren’t who we are to please people or help a friend out or to get ahead socially or financially is draaaaining. We can fool ourselves into thinking it is a stepping stone to what we really want to do but it isn’t.
- Doing less is a commitment to a higher quality of work/worship. The work we do is an act of worship. It is glorifying God with the talents, personality and time He has given us. If we have a big YES to the quality of our worship through our work, then we will sacrifice quantity for quality. We all know what it feels like to be rushing from project to project and meeting to meeting always giving just enough of our attention and effort to move it along but never enough to be truly creative or extraordinary. Wouldn’t it be more God-honouring (not to mention personally fulfilling) to do our best work? To do work that is truly meaningful and transformative?
- Doing less is a commitment to a higher quality of relationships/life. All relationships require investing time to build connection and intimacy. Setting aside dedicated time to invest in the people closest to us and being present with them is a big YES to a more fulfilling life. They say the quality of our life is the sum of the quality of our relationships. We all know this is true. Just like we know that we cannot build meaningful relationships if we never have time to take our spouse to dinner, or play board games with the kids, or just listen to our direct reports without simultaneously checking emails or text-messaging. No to constant busyness is a big YES to better relationships.
- Doing less is a commitment to spiritual growth. I have read many books about seeking God and one of the things all the authors agree on is that busyness and distraction are the enemies of spiritual growth. Saying no to a life of constant busyness and distraction is saying a big YES to more of God and more of God in us. Some of the things that require us to be fully present and undistracted are: practicing gratitude, reviewing our day with God, two-way prayer (as opposed to rattling off a monologue without waiting for a response), meditating on scripture. Getting away from the noise of life and getting with God is a prerequisite for becoming present to the places in our lives that need His touch and direction and bringing them into His Presence for guidance, redemption and restoration. You may think that you have too much to do to spend time in ’wasted’ activity like prayer for more than 15 minutes but you will be surprised at the impact you will have on your world when you spend more time with God. Try it and see!
MORE BEING, LESS DOING
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