In the few weeks before I left for vacation back in July, life had gotten pretty busy. It was all good stuff – family visiting, extra writing assignments, summer social-type events, birthday parties, involved work projects. But it all left me living in a pace I couldn’t sustain, a pace I hadn’t even tried to live at since my early 30s.
Something had to give: either me or the schedule. And since most of the busyness involved activities I could control, I decided it was the schedule. But what kind of changes did I really need?
THE IDOL OF “NOT BEING BUSY”
Having spent my 15th through 32 years at full throttle, making an idol out of busyness, there have been times in the past 8 years when I have felt the pendulum swing the opposite way. I have worked so hard to not be busy that idleness and even rest can become idols, too.
When opportunities to spend time with friends and family come my way, sometimes I feel bitter, wanting to preserve an open calendar. I also can be hesitant to commit to new ministry opportunities or service groups because I don’t want to tie up too many evenings.
The idea of slowing down is good: it’s too easy to go with the flow in our modern culture, filling all of our time with activity. But the motivation behind slowing down can be bad: I risk becoming a hoarder of my own time, unwilling to share the sacred commodity.
In the past couple of weeks, as I have evaluated this new busyness, I determined that I was not just brushing off the household god and returning her to the altar. Indeed, my pace of life was actually bordering on unhealthy. Real change was needed.
As I evaluated the activities I had been filling my life with, there wasn’t an obvious cut. Many of them were just one-time events that serendipitously (or not) fell together in a short period of time. Now the activity has ended, but it didn’t necessarily feel like the pace had slowed down. What had happened in that busy season?
REDRAWING THE MARGINS
First, I had lost my margins. Life works better for me when there is time on each end to emerge and withdraw slowly into and out of each day. When the schedule became busy, I was staying up late and getting up early just to get everything done. When the schedule eased up, my body was still operating at the same pace. I had to intentionally redraw the margins.
For me, that means I have to start shutting the blinds and turning off the lights throughout the house about an hour before I am ready to be asleep. It’s not a rigid structure-some days it’s 35 minutes, others an hour and a half. But once I begin shutting down the house, my mind takes its cue that its time to begin shutting down, too. I might check email one last time, read for a while, or spend time praying. Sometimes I might still be taking a shower, or other nights I might make a cup of tea. But during this margin time, my body and mind begin to take the posture they need to rest.
I need a similar amount of time in the morning. Once I am up, I like to give my body and my mind time to awake before running into a new day. Time in the morning means I can lay in bed a few extra minutes letting my mind wander. When I am up early, I eat a healthier breakfast and usually have time to pray, read, write. By the time I am ready to leave for work, my mind is alert and ready.
Creating margins might not mean I am always getting more sleep. But it does mean that I am resting better; I am no longer forcing my body in and out of awake and sleep with a matter of minutes.
RESTORING RHYTHM TO LIFE
The other problem with my hectic schedule was that I had lost a sense of rhythm. Because there was so much to do, I was working when it was time to rest and finding it hard not to rest when it was time to work. (I had to take a break from work one day just to drive to the local Einstein’s for a cup of coffee; I had nearly dozed off while typing!)
Different than just creating margins, restoring rhythm means making room for Sabbath rest in my life. Sabbath is not just about setting aside a day; it’s about believing that life will go on under God’s sovereign hand even if I am not hard at work directing things.
Restoring rhythm to life is also about submitting to the creation order, too. Believing that light and dark, summer and winter, six days of work and one day of rest are something more than just a freak of nature or a cultural construct.
As in his book, Making Room for Life, Randy Frazee calls this God-made rhythm of life the “Hebrew Day Planner.”
The basic premise of the Hebrew Day Planner is that we were designed by God on the sixth day of creation to function in harmony and rhythm with what he created on the first five days. On the very first day God created light and darkness. On the fourth day God filled the night and day with objects that governed the time of the day, the beginning and end of seasons, and the yearly calendar–in other words, a divine Rolex watch.
I haven’t completely redrawn the margins or restored the rhythm to life yet. It’s difficult when my decisions about my time mean others have to schedule around me. But I am finding the pace gradually slowing down.
What about you? As summer is winding down, do you find the pace of your life picking up? Or settling back in to a good normal? What are you planning to do (not do) about it?