At the top of my pet peeve list is unproductivity. I hate it when I’m still wearing my pajamas at noon. I can’t just talk on the phone with a friend, or hang out on hold with AT&T, I have to start a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher or walk the dog with my cell phone taped to my ear. The real sign that I’d crossed over into hyper-productivity mode was when I asked for a Fit Desk for Christmas. It’s essentially a stationary bike with an attached desk, so I don’t have to waste time exercising—I can return emails and update my Facebook status with the funniest one-liners I can think of. It’s not enough to read a book by Thomas Kelly—I have to be biking 40 miles as I’m reading about the contemplative life. I think I like being busy. There’s something about it that gives me purpose when I wake up. I’m important. I have things to do. I have people who expect me to be at a certain place at a certain time. I do hate the over-commitment or the over-involvement. I hate the stress that comes from promising things I don’t know how I’ll fulfill. But I’ve found that what I hate more are the snaky questions that come when I’m not busy. Why don’t I have something to do today? Why have I accomplished nothing this morning when I could have been solving world hunger?
Almost three months ago, I had a completely different life. I was in seminary, I had a wonderful job working as a pastoral associate at Baylor University. I was a Zumba instructor, a bible study teacher and preparing for the adoption of our third daughter.
Then, Brett took a job in Richardson. Overnight, I was friendless, unemployed, done with my graduate studies and dealing with the loss of a disrupted adoption. My overflowing plate was now starkly empty. And I hated it. I hated the idea that I wasn’t preparing for another baby. I hated the idea that I had no one to invite over, no people who would miss me if I didn’t show up, no one who knew that I have an uncanny knack for mixing theology and profanity.
I was alone. And it was annoying. Worse, I was no longer busy and that meant I wasn’t productive. I wasn’t making money. I wasn’t writing books. I wasn’t counseling people or even teaching them Latin-inspired dance moves. I was in my pajamas til noon. The only people I spent time with were 3 and 5 and often whining that they hated the food I’d just made.
I spoke with my dear friend in Austin, navigating similar waters and she said, “I think God might be asking you if its enough just to be with him.”
What if I am in here just to be with God? Is that enough?
It wasn’t a question I felt the need to answer. It was a question I needed to sit in. And by “sit in” I don’t mean ride my Fit Desk while dying my own hair and knitting blankets for poor kids. I mean the real sitting. The kind I’d been afraid of. The kind of sitting where it’s eerily quiet and you recognize that the shadows in the corner are actually your insecurities you’ve tried to avoid.
Silence and solitude are the agreed upon enemies of those who are busy, because solitude calls our schedule into question. Silence reveals that we wear busyness like it’s a badge of importance. Silence asks us why we want to be seen as busy. It exposes our motives—revealing our deep, insatiable thirst to be noticed, loved, and included. How much of what we do is done to feel better about ourselves?
Silence strips off the wall paper of our desperate attempts to be important.
And the bare walls are shocking.
Who am I if I don’t belong? Who am I if I don’t even work? Who am I if I’m not recognized as busy?
Solitude and silence birth the question we’ve tried to suppress. Finally. Our souls can breathe enough to say what we’re really most afraid of: Do we matter if no one else thinks we’re amazing or productive or multi-talented?
Rest, quiet and space are lights on the path to discovering our identity as those loved by God. Until we can sit in the question, we’ll keep running faster and faster out of fear of the answer.
But in solitude, when there is no one to distract, nothing to demand your attention or your leadership, you can stop running. And hear the shattering truth that you’re just as loved when you build an orphanage as you are when you’re hibernating for all of winter.
And in this place, we finally see that it isn’t God who despises unproductivity—it’s us. Maybe we have a completely different value system than the Creator. And maybe that needs to change. But you can’t change what you value if you don’t stop long enough to remember who you are. We’ve gone hoarse screaming through our busyness how important we are. But God never stops reminding a forgetful creation that it really is enough just to be with him.