Life is a balancing act and, if you’re at all like me, you’ve probably struggled at times to maintain that balance: especially when it comes to rest and work. We live in a high-paced society filled with schedules, deadlines, and difficult-to-meet expectations from bosses, professors, family members, and friends. Our lives are dominated by activities ranging from mundane chores like doing our laundry and cooking dinner to tasks which (seemingly) have the ability to make or break our future job prospects. And the Church has its demands as well!
With all of this going on around us, it isn’t surprising finding a spare moment to sit down and relax can sometimes seem like an impossible dream! Indeed, setting and maintaining boundaries between the tasks we must accomplish and the relaxation our bodies and minds so ardently desire can be quite a challenge. That’s why, over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at some simple ways to set boundaries between work and play. We’ll explore three types of work/rest boundaries that confront each of us, along with some tips for overcoming the impossible and actually getting the rest that we need. We’ll be exploring the delicate balance that exists between rest and employment, what to do when the line between work and rest gets blurred, and how to handle the tangible tension which often exists between rest and ministry.
We’ll get started this week with the trickiest of these three: the balance between rest and employment. Unless you happen to be independently wealthy, you have to have a job. It is through your employment that you are able to pay your electric bill, cover the cost of your groceries, and ensure that you aren’t running around in just a loin cloth. If you’re amongst the richest 25% of world population (those who make over $3,706 a year), you probably also have the ability to occasionally see a movie or buy a candy bar. But even those who are among the “richest” aren’t always rolling in the dough and a loss of hours can lead to serious financial hardship.
That this can lead to conflict when it comes to scheduling time for rest is undoubted. For example, what do we do when we really have to work that extra day this week or risk losing our employment? What should we do when the boss says we can have the extra hours we need to pay off our student loan, but we haven’t had a day off in over a month? And how do we handle it when those who control our time on the clock feel they have the right to control our time off the clock?
While some might be tempted to argue that those facing these circumstances ought to “take a stand”, say no, and trust God, those who have lived through similar situations know that doing so isn’t always wise… or even possible. We recognize that God’s provision for our needs doesn’t always come in a way that is comfortable or appealing and that sometimes we’re called to do something which doesn’t permit us a great deal of freedom or control. We aren’t necessarily allowing ourselves to be used as doormats (though it may appear that way to others), but we are submitting ourselves to authority in order to achieve the end that God has put before us – in this case, earning a living.
The result is that some of us have to learn the delicate art of “resting one moment at a time”. Unlike the full day off we discussed in our series on the Sabbath, this art demands that we learn to look for the little breaks in our day that allow us even just a few minutes to “escape” from the world surrounding us and into fellowship with God. It requires that we learn to make the best of the time we have, investing it in the activities and relationships that really matter. And it can make the difference between our being Spirit-filled representations of God’s love for humanity or just another cranky Christian. It isn’t always an easy skill to pick up, so next week, we’ll be taking a look at a few tips to help you on your way!