A couple of days ago, I was talking about habits with my children. Chad commended his sister for reducing her knuckle cracking habit. I said that I needed to get out of the habit of checking my phone all the time: e-mails, texts, and just addictive “checking”. Then Ellie said, “I know what else you’re addicted to…” I had no idea what would come next and was as curious as you might be. “Working. It seems like you’re addicted to working because you work all the time.” Ouch. And true.
Is workaholism uniquely American? Western? Type A? Clearly it is not limited to New York lawyers nor those working in the White House. For me, its not to make more money, because organizing and cleaning our house and all the other little tasks which occupy me aren’t rewarded with money. It is definitely a mastery of my “To Do” list over me, which promises rest at its end but only grows with each day. And no, having a “good work ethic” is not really at issue. What makes any addiction truly problematic is the associated cost and in my case, the highest cost is relationships.
Time and time again, I put off spending focused time with my children to “just finish this” as “Cat’s in the Cradle” plays in the background.
I think tasks are a form of self-protection, blocking out the harder requirement to love others as I have been loved. Tasks, though they make me sweaty and bruised at times, have clear parameters and provide visible results. People are not clear and there is rarely a point when a relational engagement is totally tied up neatly. I can measure the value of my day by the pride I feel in an orderly, clean house. And that is the starting point to begin seeing what is happening in my heart. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I treasure order more than I treasure the relationships even in my own home.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:9-17
It goes without saying that a clean kitchen doesn’t last, nor does laundry stay “put away”, nor do most of the tasks I’m so busy doing that I can’t spend more time with my children, husband, family and friends. Over and over Jesus explained that the primary product of His work on my behalf should be the extravagant way I love others just as He has loved me unreasonably and lavishly. I cannot do this, love like this, be more interested in playing on the floor with my children or listening to a friend than worried about the time I am losing for getting my own “stuff” done, if I am worshipping my accomplishments and productivity rather than God who is Love.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:8-10, 13
I cannot change my own heart in this matter. I am too magnetically drawn to completing tasks, needing clutter eliminated from my surroundings, wanting to create order more than cultivate intimate relationships. I at best can announce a resolution and attempt to discipline myself in some structured way to carve out more time for my children, etc. Yet, cleaning the outside of the dish does not equate with internal transformation and genuine enamored love that is more interested in the welfare of others than my own peace of mind. Thankfully and mercifully, I do have One who is faithful and is working on my behalf to conform to His image, through my inevitable failure and in His perfect timing.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 1 Thess. 5:23-24