“Chrissy, give me your phone. Leave your watch on the table and your laptop on your desk. You are going upstairs. I don’t care what you do, take a nap, read a book, doesn’t matter to me… but you need to take a break.”
These are perhaps the most firm and most loving words Justin (my husband) has ever spoken to me and they came at the precise moment (embarrassingly, not so long ago) when I was on the brink of losing my mind. Months and unending months of a pandemic season in which all of the life-giving human interactions that ministry is made of turned into back-to-back Zoom calls, coupled with the daily reminder that I do not have what it takes to be a second grade teacher (thank you Virtual Academy) had led me to my personal limit. The breaking point.
I recognize that for each of us, this proverbial breaking point is different. Perhaps it takes on new shapes and forms in different seasons of our life? For me, on this pandemic afternoon, my breaking point looked like anger at the slightest little things… perhaps every slight little thing that stood in between me and my productivity. I’m a proud 3 on the enneagram, affectionately called “The Achiever,” in most models. This doesn’t mean we actually achieve a lot (although in some cases, it can), it just means we are driven by achievements (a.k.a. productivity). Three’s like to accomplish things, to check things off the list, to complete tasks, and three’s like to do that stuff well. Who doesn’t? Unfortunately, for this three, the pandemic just hasn’t been conducive for that. At least not while trying to take a relational institution as old as the church and turn it into a digital organization over-night. And also, did I mention that whole thing about virtual education for a 7 year old?
All of this to say, in this moment, the one so beautifully and painfully interrupted by my loving spouse, the energizer bunny that I had become (trying to accomplish something… anything!) was forced to stop.
Now, “stop” is not a word that I do very well. It ranks right up there with words like: “rest,” “reflect,” and “meditate,” in my list of things Chrissy likes to do. But I am once again coming to terms with the reality that it is necessary not only for the health and well-being of those who love me (and also have to live with me), but also for my own health: both physical and spiritual.
It turns out running around non-stop for years and years can be a cause for high blood pressure! (Who knew?) And, allowing one’s whole self to be so consumed with work and productivity – even for good things and good reasons – can drown out the voice of God’s Spirit that wants to show up in the silent, stillness of winter.
The Psalmist writes:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.
As much as I’d like to tell you that the spousal intervention staged on that fateful afternoon healed me from all that got me so worked up in the first place… As much as I’d like to tell you that reading this Psalm taught me the important lesson that all my endless working, worrying, and striving to achieve and accomplish is all done in vain… What I want more is to be honest with you.
So here’s the truth. I am who I am. We are who we are. God has made us each differently, with our own unique breaking points. And, God has given us the words of scripture, the wisdom of people who love us, and the Lenten opportunity to acknowledge that we are merely human. In those blessings, there is a chance to be renewed.
Renewal for me looks like rest this Lent. That’s my spiritual practice. Rest means walking away from my laptop from time to time, reading a book that is purely for fun, going on walks in addition to runs, and yes… I have even taken a nap (maybe two)!
If you are hard-wired to get things done, maybe this Lenten practice is for you. And if you need a little nudge, consider this your invitation. Consider rest this Lent. I invite you. Give it a try. And let me know how it goes!