Do you ever desperately crave a vacation? Maybe that’s the stress talking. If you’re anything like me, your life can be summed up in one word: busy. Sometimes it even feels as if life is an unstoppable train, racing down the tracks at high speed and leaving you sprinting desperately to catch up in the dust of its wake. How did we get to this spot? Myself and others I know are quick to blame it on work (or school). Eight hours a day is quite a lot of time to dedicate! But is work really the culprit?
In the early days of America, the typical workday was longer than ten hours. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that unions pushed for the establishment of the eight-hour workday. Ideally, 1/3 of the day is for working, 1/3 is for sleeping, and 1/3 of the day is for everything else. Sounds great, but in reality . . . where do those other eight hours go?? I sure haven’t seen them in a long time! My days feel like they’re only 17 hours long: 9 hours work, 7 hours sleep, 1-2 hours free. Curiously, it wasn’t the people back in the early 1800’s working 10+ hour days complaining about not having enough time. It’s us.
A friend once commented that “busy” can be thought of as an acronym for “Buried Under Satan’s Yoke”. Curious, isn’t it? In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, a series of letters written between two devils, the senior devil tells the junior devil that the main strategy to get people to fall is simple: to create so much noise (or can we say, distractions, and busy-ness), that people can no longer hear the voice of God.
It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness and think it’s normal. We know our culture is steeped in rush-rush-rush. With our focus continually directed towards completing goals, like marking off items on a checklist, are our lives truly just a listed sum of accomplishments? Where is the backdrop, the ether, the continuum that forms the foundation of these ambitions? It can only be found in the quiet. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Stopping and taking quiet time can be very intimidating, and downright scary. The questions start bubbling up from the little voice inside your head you’ve been ignoring while you were “busy”. When we really stop and think, it comes down to this: we’re so busy rushing, but WHY? WHERE are we rushing to? WHAT is the purpose? Is finishing this or that task an hour or two sooner really going to make me get promoted earlier? Or get me an "A" instead of a "B" on that paper? And so what if it does? Is it worth my health and sanity?
The key antidote to the stress is quiet time. Prayer time. God-time. We live in a world of rhythms and cycles. Dr. Micah Sadigh, a psychology professor at Cedar Crest College, commented in a seminar on healing and stress that we are made to go through periods of activity and rest. Like any hyper toddler who runs rampant for two hours, then plops down to nap, we need that down time too. Go-go-go: coffee; go-go-go: coffee;---is not sustainable. So take that vacation. Or better yet, take just ten minutes each night, put away all the distractions, and listen to the voice of God. And BREATHE. You’ll be surprised how much your life will start to change.