And God Rested
by Jeff Montgomery
Recently, I took my son to a baseball game. Here where we live in Oklahoma we have a minor league baseball team that is affiliated with the Texas Rangers of Major League Baseball.
What a great evening! The weather was perfect - an Oklahoma spring evening that was to die for. Low humidity, temperature just right. The home team won, which always makes the evening better. And, most importantly, it was a great 3 or 4 hours with my son.
In the midst of all this, I was reminded of something else that most of us need to keep in mind as we blast our way through our lives - it's good to slow down every now and then and just sit back and enjoy.
Heck, even God did that. After six days of creating the universe out of nothing, He took a well-deserved rest, looked back at what He created, and declared it good. (Thought for the day - how, exactly does God rest?)
Sitting in the ballpark, it was great to be free of time constraints. For the duration of the game, I had nowhere to be, no pressure to get somewhere, and no deadlines to meet. I was able to have enjoyable conversation with my son and reconnect with him in a way that sometimes gets lost in the hustle and bustle of life. And the hot dogs were wonderful. (I've been doing the Atkins plan, and yes, I ate the buns without guilt!)
It was a great break from the demands of work and other obligations.
The evening reminded me that it's important to keep our work in perspective. If we don't, our lives get out of balance and other, equally important things suffer. Our family, our friends, and even our faith are the losers when work becomes our god. And God never intended it to be that way.
Pope John Paul II tells us in his encyclical On Human Work that it is man that defines work, and not the other way around. We are not slaves to the work that we have to do. Remember that in the beginning, God created man and woman, then sometime later came work. He placed the primacy on us, and not on the work he would later give us to do.
So it falls within our sphere of influence to allocate ourselves in the proper way to accomplish what needs to be done with our work, and at the same time leave us with time to nurture, grow, and otherwise attend to the other parts of our mission. Despite how it may seem at times, our work is not the only aspect of our mission in this life.
Keeping work in perspective requires us to find a balance. That's a much overused word these days, but it does describe our efforts to keep all aspects of our lives under control. I liken it to the carnival performer who tries to keep a number of plates spinning atop slender sticks. We have to spend a good bit of time with each plate getting it started, then have to dart from plate to plate to keep them spinning.
The number of plates we have to keep spinning depends on our own lives. It depends on the size and activity level of our families. It depends on whether or not we're married. It depends on our level of involvement in other activities, such as volunteer commitments or social obligations. However many plates we have to work with, it's a safe bet that most of us have several to keep spinning.
And what happens when we spend too much time on one plate, say our work plate, to keep it spinning better than all the rest? The others eventually lose their spin and fall.
That's why we have to keep our work in perspective. As Christians, we are called to live a holy life, and that holiness should permeate every aspect of our lives. That means being good stewards of our time and skills and devoting the proper amounts of time to each part of our lives. And THAT means not letting work become the focus of our entire life.
There are any number of warnings in Scripture about letting ourselves worship false gods. For some of us, that false god becomes work. In fairness, it's easy to see why. Most of the time you feel like you're accomplishing things. If you do them well you get recognition and, hopefully, pay raises and promotions. The long hours and hard work make you feel like you're really accomplishing things.
But it's a false sense of security. I've discovered over the years that the working world will keep taking as long as you keep giving, until there's ultimately nothing left. Health, sanity, family, friends - all suffer when we worship the god of work. That's why we have to keep it in perspective.
Our work is indeed a blessing, just as our faith, family, friends, and the rest of our lives are blessings. But it's not the only thing. If you see yourself devoting too much time to work, and that these other areas are suffering, take a break. Seek out God and find out what He wants you to do with your life, or at least seek His guidance in how to break free from the false god of overwork.
There's a whole life to be lived out there, and it's just waiting for us!
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