While I was in seminary, I worked as a resident chaplain for a freshman girls’ dorm. I lived in a closet-sized apartment and attempted to pastor six hundred 18 year-olds. Between school and an impossible job, I was busy. I was too busy to worry about grad school or cleaning my apartment or filing taxes. And I was apparently too busy to deposit my paychecks.
While preparing for our move to Boulder, Brett packed up my movie collection. As he went through my old-school VHS tapes, he began to find handfuls of $20 bills stuffed in the cases. After we worked through the classics of "Tommy Boy" and "Rookie of the Year," we’d found $4,000 in $20 bills.
Brett was astounded. And I felt like an old lady who hides bundles of money in the freezer because she’s convinced the Great Depression will rise again.
It was embarrassing, but insightful. My unwillingness to do something as uncomplicated as depositing a check at a bank was more than an issue of time management; it was an issue of identity. I was obsessed with doing: counseling, praying with and listening to freshman girls’ stories of boys and classes and sororities. Some days I’d meet with five or six people to discuss eating disorders, familial tension and roommate drama.
And I could never do enough.
My seminary work suffered. I was even too tired to plan my upcoming wedding. I didn’t prioritize sleep. And I certainly didn’t have time to run a check to the bank.
I was afraid to rest. I was afraid to take care of practical and seemingly unimportant tasks. I didn’t value the mundane. And it stemmed from a misunderstanding of who I was.
I thought my value rested in what I could accomplish—who I could love, what I could solve, and how many people needed me. Instead of feeling alive, I felt exhausted and resentful.
When we’re motivated by obligation and guilt, we can’t take care of the important. We think that too much rests on our shoulders. Doing laundry is useless and time-sucking. Sitting down or waiting in lines keeps us from real work.
Maybe some of us misunderstand discipleship; we think we’re workhorses who only get fed when we’ve accomplished every task. If you want to be loved, you’ve got to earn it.
But when God came to earth in the person of Jesus, normal human work continued to exist. Clothes still had to be washed. People had to be fed. Sheep had to be found.
I wonder if all too often we buy into the lie that the important can’t include the mundane. Instead, we measure things that are important by their impact.
But the kingdom is different. The church is meant to contrast the world of accomplishment by offering a picture of faith. We’re called not to a job but to a Person—a person to whom we listen and on whom we depend.
And there’s no place in life where this can’t be done.
We’re afraid to slow down. We’re afraid to step down. We’re afraid rest will strip us of our hard-earned reputations. We’re afraid attention to the important job of rest will make us unimportant to others.
We step over our own mess to serve others or change the world. We don’t acknowledge the condition of our own souls for the sake of a checklist.
One day, I asked a girl down the hall how she was doing. I tuned out her answer because I was too busy thinking about all I needed to do. Then she asked me, “What about you? What’s going on in your heart?”
I stared at her like she’d caught me shoplifting.
I had no answer. I had no idea how I was doing, what I was feeling, or the last time I’d connected with God.
I spent so much time ignoring my own soul so I could attempt to complete the impossible tasks of Super-Chaplain.
I took no time to sit, no time to connect with myself, and no time to feed my own heart and mind.
When I began to move from accomplishment to identifying myself by the love of God, I found meaning in the mundane. I started to value quiet. I attempted to let go of the boulder-sized burden of having something to prove.
And I became better at answering the questions in my own soul.
Discipleship isn’t a competitive sprint. We’re just on a journey—a journey toward loving and learning to be loved by a God who is far more concerned with our hearts than our productivity.
There’s freedom to do the dishes, play freeze tag with your kids and take a nap.
Take 15 minutes to take your paychecks to the bank. Acknowledge your own mess.
And participate in a life and world whose successes and failures don’t rest on your shoulders.