The dreaded question: How is your work/life balance?
A question that I’m not sure I really ever took seriously. Of course, looking after yourself seems like a good idea… But… There is always a but.
“But the to do list is just too long.”
“But I want my boss to respect me.”
“But I’m just so passionate about the work I’m doing.”
“But God has called me to this mission.”
“But I need to work more if I want to make it up the career ladder.”
All are reasonable excuses, right? So we allow them, perhaps we even praise them. We commend each other for our commitment to our jobs, our callings, to God. “Tired” and “busy” become the standard responses in the Sunday post-service small talk. Over-working becomes a badge of honour that we wear with pride.
As I lay in bed after a year of illness and a diagnosis of ME (chronic fatigue), I wondered if perhaps I might have got something wrong. Whether my pattern of over-working, disregard for self care and the variety of ‘but’s I used when challenged about work/life balance were not God’s best for me. Even further, whether this pattern of life I had regarded as commitment to God, was in fact sin?
When God chose the top ten instructions for what it looks like to live out the calling on us as Christians to love him and love people, he included:
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy… On it you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:8–10)
God is clearly serious about rest. We see this in the rhythm that Jesus models, of the time he prioritises to be in solitude (Mark 1:9–14, 1:35, 6:30–32, 6:45–46, 9:2–13,14:32–42). Even the way in which God creates, has a rhythm of work and rest (Genesis 2:2–3).
So how does this look in real life? How do we get ourselves aligned to scripture instead of the societal pressure of over-working? I think it has to start with an acknowledgement that we are in control of our own busyness. Look at how many of the ‘but’s we create put the responsibility on others — colleagues, bosses, even God. Henri Nouwen call this the “illusion of [our] busyness”, saying, “I will have no time to pray whatsoever unless I radically say that prayer and solitude — being alone with God — is a priority”.
He goes on to say that the difficulty with this is that we connect our busyness with our identity. We define ourselves by our influence, our popularity, our success. When those things become our priorities — the idols in our lives — then it is those by which our time and energy is consumed.
Perhaps it is time to shift our identity, to put God back as number one in our schedules. Ortberg writes, “In solitude we remember we are not what anybody thinks of us — we are sheep tended to by the shepherd”.
How would your life look different if you allowed that space to rest in the Father’s arms? To come back to who you truly are? Maybe it is time to readdress your priorities and find a rhythm of rest and solitude that God is longing for in your life.
And maybe, just maybe, that dreaded question will be a little less dreaded.
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