When 'Productivity' Becomes Your God
Wanting to write this post came from a slow realisation that my life has started being defined by lists. To-do lists, and lots of them. They fall under categories of what I must do for uni work, for my summer plans, for the blog, for all my commitments, for the friends I need to catch up with, the phonecalls, the emails, everything I need to complete.
I know that when I'm stressed or busy, uncategorised time is a luxury and I make sure to label it so that I'm maximising what I'm doing at all times. I know that this slightly unhealthy trait is one shared by lots of our readers - we get messages from the girls drowning in coursework, wishing they could leave school and not have to face another deadline, from the working girls who crash with exhaustion as soon as they get home; and then there are the what-I-can-only-describe-as superwomen girls, who seem to be responsible for stabilising the economy, tackling global poverty, running marathons and winning at A-levels all at once.
So I think that lots of us will understand this feeling where the ins and outs of life feels like a relentless wave that comes crashing in every morning. For me, I try and keep on top of it by creating a long and detailed list every week in my poor, long-suffering Moleskine diary. It was when things like 'PM: pray' or 'Read 3 John before lunch' started tiptoeing onto the list that I thought perhaps this approach wasn't completely as God would intend me to spend time with Him. The worst one of all was for this very post - 'MAKE TIME to write post on productivity!' - so painfully ironic...
God's place in my life should never be as a fairly low-down member of a long to-do list.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Matthew 6:33
Seek first the kingdom of God. How did I let all these other things get in the way of that? My thoughts turn again to doing, and being scared of slipping up. So... I'll have to get up earlier, and make the days a little longer in order to spend enough time with Him first thing - and then I can still manage to keep everything under control. But wait:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Without Him, I can do nothing? I read this and believe it on the surface, but still deep down I still can't quite let go of the fact that I have to continue to do things in my own strength, else things will start falling apart and people will see that I'm a failure.
But Jesus tells us to remain in Him, not to remain being productive and make sure we include enough Christian activities in our already packed schedules. We don't need to try really hard to remain in Him in our own strength, but rather, we are created to serve Him, and therefore everything we do needs to be for Him and can't be through anything but His strength alone.
I need to be careful not to wrongly put 'God's Work' into a subcategory of 'My Work'. In my last similarly-themed post, The Idol of 'Busy', I wrote of my desire to honour the God that honours rest, and how rest is a really important way of telling the world that we live for something greater than ourselves.
Rest is built into the Ten Commandments, it is fundamentally built into the creation of the universe. And how many times do we see Jesus encouraging his disciples to rest, to escape the crowds and the commitments and spend some time with their Father. When you honour rest, you are making a statement that you trust in a God who is bigger than any of the stresses and strains of this world. When you rest you are committing your time up to God, trusting in His plan above your own.
I want to start committing my time up to God, not just by 'doing' for Him, but by being for Him. God doesn't need my small to-do lists or my attempts to get things done. He uses me for my benefit, and not because He needs me.
Julia Sterne wrote the most useful and hard-hitting article that I've been thinking over for a good few weeks now. I found this quote from it really helpful:
"The greatest gift in the Garden was not the work given to Adam and Eve, but the presence of their loving Creator. I long for good work and productivity but even more I ache to be in the presence of my Lord, my Father, my King. I have misappropriated my gifts. Work is a good gift, but even better is the Giver."
Isn't that so beautiful? Work, and therefore in a sense, 'productivity' is a gift from the Ultimate Giver. God does give us time. He gives us passions, skills and resources and places us in situations where we can flourish by bringing Him glory. And this is our greatest gift - not a somewhat obsessive penchant for making lists - but the eternal presence and promise of a loving Father who knows what is best for His children. We have the gift of Jesus, His life-bringing, sin-forgiving Son. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, who works in us to make us better than we could ever be on our own.
I focus my gaze back onto the Giver, and I'm already feeling like I can achieve a lot more than I could on my own... For I was designed to praise my Creator, I was made for my Maker; and God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
Are we declaring to the world that we have a sure hope, a total dependance and joyful contentment in Jesus in the way we approach life? Are we trying to 'do life' in our own strength, or are we prepared to recognise that our time on Earth is fleeting, our capabilities are limited and our purpose to life can't be self-designed or self-centred.
For me, I think this will look as small and simple as creating space; being prepared to devote uncategorised time to learn more about the character of my infinitely good, saving, miracle-making Father. I want to wake up every morning and remember that I am doing His work first and foremost, to approach life with the right attitude: I am a servant - and God is not my butler...
I want to make time to remember that all I have comes from Him and that my primary goal in life isn't to try in vain to propel myself forward in this life in a fluster of to-do lists and never-enough-time. I must be less so that He can be greater.
I'm Lucy and I'm just coming to the end of my second year at Durham University. I love my hometown Cambridge and I also love living in the beautiful little city of Durham, where the coffee shops are plentiful and the people are GREAT!
Running More Precious is one of my favourite things and it's the biggest source of encouragement for me! Like I said in my bio, I'm still learning how to live out a little of the thankfulness of Pollyanna, the kindness of Katy Carr and the faith of the Proverbs 31:25 girl - perhaps one day I'll get there!