Showing posts with label Idolatry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Idolatry. Show all posts

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sabbath Rest for Dummies

Rarely is the need for rest more evident to me than it has been today. That's a bold statement, considering how I have often been much more tired than I am right now—but it remains true. I worked hard yesterday on a personal project—about 10.5 hours, when all was said and done. That, on top of a long and busy week, left me feeling drained and sleepy this morning. (It probably doesn't help that, with clouds like we had this morning, it's dark until 7:30.

I made the conscious choice midway through the afternoon not to do any more work on the aforementioned personal project this afternoon—I have plenty of time available the rest of the week. Instead, I spent my time talking with a friend, laying down on the sofa with my wife while listening to music, eating dinner, taking a long, relaxing walk with Jaimie, and playing Halo with her (and my sister and her fiancĂ©). It helped. I needed the downtime; I needed to truly rest.

Not long ago, Justin Taylor posted a helpful discussion on whether Christians, who live in the New Covenant, are obligated to observe a Sabbath. I agree with the conclusion he highlighted—that we are not required to observe a particular Sabbath every week—but think the ensuing discussion missed an important point. While we may not have any outside demand on us when it comes to a day of rest, we're pretty silly if we think that God gave it for no reason and accordingly toss it aside with nary a thought.

Americans value productivity over almost any other virtue. As long as you are generating something, somehow, we have little patience for tiredness, rest, and downtime. We are easily bored, frustrated by the slow pace that members of other cultures often enjoy, and obsessed with squeezing every last moment in a day to its fullest (productive) potential. This is bad. Moments are frankly not made to be squeezed. The juice that they ooze out as we wring the last drops from them is sour from overtired, overstrained people who fail to enjoy the good life God has given because they are so concerned with doing something—anything!—with every moment of that life.

Is this obsession not ultimately rooted in our desire to self-validate through our accomplishments? If we can trump our neighbors' number of deeds done, tasks finished, etc., we feel superior to them. If we achieve everything we put on our to-do list at the start of the day, we think the day was a success (even if those tasks were ultimately banal or meaningless). We shuffle aside friendships, trading them for more work, more time spent doing, less time spent being.

Make no mistake: productivity and drive are good things. The problem is that we have made them idols. We have taken a gift and perverted it—how surprising! We cannot take joy in the days God sets before us if we do not slow down enough to actually notice the day itself—if we are so wrapped up in everything we're doing that we miss every sunset, every quiet moment of thought, every delighted outburst of laughter at something silly.

We need Sabbaths. We need rest, a rest that is not only about not doing but about simplicity. Our lives are tangled busynesses—and we take pride in the tangle as well as in the busyness. When we take a step back, set aside the infinite connection to the ceaseless chatter, and simply be with each other, we do far better.

Hint: I'm not necessarily very good at this, yet. I am, after all, typing a blog post on a Sunday evening when I decided to rest. I made this goal, and so I'm keeping it. In the future, however, it seems likely that I will not be typing away at 10:40 pm on a Sunday evening. I will write the blog post earlier in the week, or I will simply take one day off. Rest is important.

I'm only about a week from the end of this experiment—at which point it will be time to reevaluate and see whether posting daily is still a goal I want to pursue. Without a doubt, blogging daily takes a great deal of time and mental energy. It's even more taxing when you're not sure if anyone is reading—so, if you made it down this far, do me the favor of leaving a comment; it's always nice to know who's reading!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Writing and Idolatry

Even as I worked to redesign my blog yesterday, I continued to contemplate the issue of voice in my writing. Part of the answer struck me at church today. (Conviction struck me a moment later as I realized I was thinking about blogging instead of worshipping God.) I realized that, especially at Pillar, my writing over the last few months has moved in a very systematic direction. Lists, four-point analyses, and carefully organized paragraphs have become the norm for me. Even now, writing here, I find myself moving that direction. Systematic approaches are not in and of themselves bad. To the contrary, they are often very helpful for quickly navigating the content of a blog.

However, my writing flows better when it flows. If you will allow me the metaphor: I can sometimes forget that I am a musician as well a programmer with a physics degree. Writing is not merely a problem to be solved; it is also an activity to be enjoyed. Words are not merely a means to the end of communicating content, at least for me: they are also a source of beauty and joy. When content eclipses beauty as the goal of my writing (or, frankly, vice versa) bad things happen. The time I spent learning to write technically was good, and I will never forget my physics professor's quiet amusement at the language in the first draft of my capstone paper. That said, a style that was horribly inappropriate in the context of a scientific paper may not be inappropriate in the context of my personal blog or even a more tightly focused platform like Pillar on the Rock.

In my mind, these past few days, Pillar on the Rock has come to represent a number of challenges facing me. The first was my search for my voice, and my recognition that writing for Pillar has changed my writing—and not always to the better. Of course, the problem is not the blog itself, but how I have allowed my goals to decide (and not merely influence) my style. I hope to change that over the next few weeks and months.

Similarly, I recognized today that I have allowed my work on Pillar to channel my theological interests and passions in a particular direction. Again, this is not anything intrinsic in the blog; it is my (very bad) tendency to allow a project to dictate my overall direction. In this case, my focus on church has distracted me from the very reason I was passionate about the church in the first place: my passion for the glory and supremacy of God himself. As I have written before, when anything takes the place of God himself as our chief passion or greatest love, it has become an idol. That means that healthy churches can easily become an idol, and there are few more dangerous idols I can conceive of. Striving for churchly goodness without God's glory as our only real aim will lead us to tear the body of Christ down faster than any imperfection would.

Of course, if I return to the original topic of this post, then I must admit that writing well is as apt to become an idol as doing church well is—and the consequences would be no less disastrous. Writing well is a good goal. But it will remain a good goal only while I strive to point not to the quality of my own writing but to the glory of the one who spoke the world into existence. He loves words, so I should love words too—but I should love the Word far more.