If we seek to enable others to discover significance and direction in their lives, it is essential that we have sources of sustenance and vitality for our own souls. How can we function as agents of God’s Spirit in bringing healing and renewal to others unless we are moving towards wholeness for ourselves? It is easy to slip into a mode of working for other people that is driven by our own needs as much as the needs of others – our own loneliness or low self-esteem.
In some churches and charitable organizations the weight of expectations placed on leaders, employees and volunteers is so demanding that it can be difficult to resist. It takes courage to examine our work/life rhythms, to be a non-conformist, or to question those who have established the culture.
So it is important to ask ourselves what liberates us to be who God intends us to be, and to make time for what makes life interesting – time off, time out (and not simply to catch up with household chores). Often this will be in some kind of creativity or playfulness – art, music, poetry, walking, sport, baking – involvement in creation and creativity.
God – creator, redeemer, sustainer - brought us into relational being, and so we shrivel up without meaningful investment in relationships beyond our formal or official roles. God loves us through the love of human beings, so the cultivation of trust and friendships entails the allocation of our diary time.
Perhaps that is why Psalm 127 begins like this
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.
It immediately goes on to extol the benefits of having children, for children insist on the importance of relationships. Not everyone has children of their own, of course, and if this is your case, make surrogate children (young or adult); cross the generational divides.
Where would you put yourself on a spectrum between:
Working too much… Having a good balance between work, rest, other interests and relationships… Getting by on work through doing the minimum?
What steps will you take to make the shift into a more healthy rhythm to life, if that’s what is needed?
Jeremy Thomson is Vice Principal and Principal Lecturer in Theology at Oasis College of Higher Education.