“I am fed up with my job!” How many of us have said this. Yes, I am raising my hand too. I think that one of the biggest reasons people get fed up comes from the inability to rest well.
There are obviously two extremes in this work/ life balance. On the one hand, you can spend all your time working and never get a real break where you leave work aside completely. A guy I know went on a vacation to a far away and beautiful place and somehow managed to check and respond to his email almost every day. While I admire him for how hard he works I don’t think that is the proper way to spend a vacation… On the other hand, you can spend all of your time avoiding work. I know a high school boy who does the absolute minimal amount of homework so he can quickly get back to shooting monsters and enemy insurgents in his video games. While that may sound like more fun I would argue that this attitude is a bad way of resting as well.
“Jesus said to them, `Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.’ Many people were coming and going. They could not even eat.” (Mk 6:31)
This gospel line has always stuck out to me. Doesn’t Christ want us to be working as hard as we can all the time? That seems like the best use of our time here on earth. Apparently not. Christ specifically called them away to rest. I think this is an important thing to point out, and one that is frequently overlooked. There is a natural rhythm of feasting and fasting in the Church. We spend Lent fasting and abstaining various things, then at Easter we feast and enjoy.
The way to avoid the workaholic trap is to really stop working when you are resting. When is the last time you set your phone down for more than an hour? Nowadays people can reach us wherever we are since we can check our email, text messages, and other social media from anywhere. Work follows us, unless we cut it off. I know there are certain jobs that don’t allow a complete disconnect, but for the rest of us there is something healthy about breaking completely for periods of rest, over the weekend for example.
The opposite extreme is to veg out, or to rest by just letting ourselves go. This, in particular, is a danger that can lead to sin. We either work too hard or stress too much and we just want to find a release and we seek it wherever we can. There are healthy ways to rest that help us restore our minds, bodies, and souls, and then there are unhealthy ways to rest. There is not a definite line here but a priest mentor of mine once taught me a good rule of thumb. If you can’t drop it or stop it whenever you want then it is something you are attached to and it is likely a disordered attachment.
One way to see how in control you are when resting is to set times for how long you are going to watch TV, or read a book, or whatever else you do. By setting a reasonable time you ensure that you are not going to over extend your rest time and cut in to time that should be spent with your family or working.
Finding a balance between work and rest is never going to be easy, but the effort is worth it. Often we can get bogged down in our work, even if we enjoy working, and forget about the big picture, the reason that we are working. In the recent movie The Greatest Showman P. T. Barnum throws himself into his work and forgets his family and all that was important to him. He ends up losing everything, but in that moment he is able to take a step back and see what is truly important, in this case his wife, children, and the loyal bunch of misfit friends. This epiphany is immortalized by Hugh Jackman in the song From Now On.
I saw the sun begin to dim/And felt that winter wind/Blow cold
A man learns who is there for him/When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold
‘Cause from then, rubble/One remains
Can only be what’s true/If all was lost/Is more I gain
‘Cause it led me back
From now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on
I believe that type of moment is what Christ wants to remind us of, he wants us to put him at the center of our lives and not our ego or our money or our desires. Let us take the time to rest with him, and remain with him, from now on.