Jun 072018 6 Responses

How Close Are We to a Meaningful Life?

It had been a productive day. The last day before vacation tends to be that way. We are focused and determined. With no time to waste, we attack our days with intensity. That had been this day. My work anniversary date was approaching and with a “use-it-or-lose-it” vacation policy, I had to take off the next week to use my remaining vacation days. As the day passed, item after item was checked off the to-do list. It was a satisfying day.

But much like a sugar rush, the productivity came at a cost. As the day ended, I was exhausted. It wasn’t just from the day. I had kept a pace for the previous few months that probably wasn’t the wisest. It was time for a break. I left work early, came home, and crashed. It was an unusual early evening. The kids were out of town. Jenny had a meeting. The house was silent and I took a nap. As I was falling asleep, I felt a great freedom knowing that for at least a few days I wouldn’t have to prepare a speech, write an article, or edit a book.

Awakening from a short nap, I ate dinner and went for a walk. I call it a “putt and run.” I take my putter to a nearby golf course at dusk. I run/walk the holes and then stop on the green to practice my putting. It was a beautiful night. The heat of the day dissipated. The grass was perfectly manicured. Sprinklers were running on different parts of the course. In the distance, a storm was building. And something amazing happened.

As I was putting on a green, an idea for an article came to me. I took my phone out and typed it into my notes. Then another idea came. As I walked, several more came to mind. Minutes earlier I had been almost gleeful of not having any expectations to write, edit, or speak for a few days. But now my mind was exploding with thoughts and ideas. The only thing that had changed was a little rest, a little quiet, a little exercise, and the removal of an immediate pressure to produce.

How Were We Designed?

I wonder how close we are to a truly meaningful life. There are times in which freedom and fulfillment feel a thousand miles away, but then there are these other moments in which it seems close enough to touch. Sadly, we spend so much of our adult lives under the gun that we don’t have the ability to experience the freedom of who we were made to be.

Maybe this is one reason God created a Sabbath. We were never created to live in a continual state of production. The unending experience of pressure is not something our bodies can endure. So God designed a break. He created a pattern so that we could regularly experience freedom from production, expectation, and pressure. But what do we do? We ignore God’s design. Even though our professional lives are organized around a schedule where we can work for six days and rest one, we fill the day of rest with just as many exhausting and non-rejuvenating expectations as any other day of the week. The result is an unending cycle of demands, expectations, and pressures. Then we wonder why we are always so tired.

Maybe this is one reason God made the sun to rise and set. Before electricity, humanity had little choice but to stop working when the sun went down. Now, we can often accomplish more when it is dark. As the sun sets, phones calls wane and the expectations of others diminish so that we can actually have the time to do the work we want to do. Rather than sleeping or resting, many of us work more at night than in the day.

Maybe this is one reason God instituted feasts and holidays. Through the Old Testament, special days and seasons are created. They had many purposes for God’s people, but one of the intentions was to bring the people rest. It created unity within the community, a break from the drudgery of daily life, and a reconnecting of individuals to themselves, others, and God. So too, we have seasons of vacation where we have the opportunity to rejuvenate. Yet most Americans don’t take all their vacation days and those that do often don’t use them for the purpose of re-engaging their hearts and souls.

Failing to observe a daily rhythm, a weekly Sabbath, and seasonal vacations, we live in a continual state of weariness. It’s one thing that we do this to ourselves; it’s another that we teach our kids to do the same. Doctors warn that our kids are physically stressed from so many games and activities. Psychologists warn that our kids are emotionally stressed from so little free time. Pastors warn that our kids are spiritually malnourished because sports have replaced worship and competition has replaced catechism.  And we know that we are living in an improper manner while teaching our children to do the same.

How Close Are We?

But what if we are close? What if a meaningful life is far closer than we realize. For many, we don’t need a radical transformation in how we do life, we simply need some small changes. It’s not a complete 180, but a simple 10 degree turn toward art, beauty, sleep, rest, reading, creation, and fun. If every day, every week, and every year we would prioritize times of rejuvenation, we would see a tremendous change in how we feel, think, and believe. Small changes could result in big results.

Consider:

How will you rest and rejuvenate today?

  • a nap?
  • a concrete shutoff time for work (and your phone)?
  • an intentional time spent reflecting or reading?
  • some time set aside for silence?
  • a walk with your spouse?

Will you take one day this week to be rather than do?

  • How will you rest?
  • How will you replenish your mind and soul?
  • How will you connect with others?
  • How will you ensure you don’t work?
  • How will you connect with God?

What week will you break away from the day to day?

  • Will others know you aren’t working?
  • Will you leave work at the office?
  • Is the place you are going most conducive to rest?
  • Have you planned your time to make sure it is rejuvenating?
6 Responses to How Close Are We to a Meaningful Life?
  1. Jeff Reply

    This is a very hard lesson to learn. We all have responsibilities, jobs, chores, etc that “must” be completed. I cannot recall the last time I took a break. Great article and great reminder.

  2. Donna Wakefield Johnson Reply

    Love this, Kevin! Thank you for drawing on God’s perfect order for this great article. Truth!

  3. Deborah Moorman Reply

    I enjoyed your message. I found myself exhausted, isolated and dis-engaged at the end of a terrible 2017. Ilearned that I had a hormone imbalance due to menopause and I was letting work overtake my life. I got on hormone replacement therapy which helped tremendously, and I am now working on balancing my work life with my personal life. I don’t want to let my employer or customers down, so this lead me to failing myself. I have learned that I have to take care of myself in order to take care of my employer and my customers. Your message was confirmation that I am on the right track. Trust in God and his plan!

  4. Don Dickey Reply

    Kevin, truer words have never been spoken, as the years click by we should all begin to realize that there is much more to life that the normal hustle and bustle that we all become accustomed too. Thanks for the inspiring article.

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