This post, written in July 2014 at the beginning of my quest to do less and be more, seems appropriate even in July 2019, at the end of a weekend where I hung out with my granddaughters, simply being.
Many have pointed out the irony of being called ‘human beings’ in a culture that is so focused on ‘doing’. We often find our worth, meaning, and identity through what we do. Strangers, upon meeting, ask one another, “so what do you do?” The child comes home from school, and the parent asks, “what did you do today?” The husband says to the wife, “what have you been doing?” It’s fine if what you did was close a million-dollar deal, get an A on a paper, or promote world peace, but not so great if what you did was file for bankruptcy, get in a fight with a friend, or simply change diapers all day. When we form our identity or measure our worth based on what we do, we may end up struggling with perfectionism, workaholism, and, in the absence of peak-performance, depression.
I must admit from the start, that in the world of doing, I have been an over-achiever. I stood at the starting line of adulthood declaring that I was going to win. I was the mom who, while holding a full-time teaching position, trained for and ran a half-marathon, baked cinnamon rolls and tortillas from scratch, clipped coupons, and made all my children’s clothes (just kidding on that last one). You get the point. I have got doing down. To a fault.
I often do when I don’t want to feel, or when I need to be in control, or when I am angry or afraid. It is my way of avoiding the interior me — the human being.
So when my health began to shift and I suddenly found myself unable to do all the things I like to do and started to be, it was pretty ugly. I began to be angry, and scared, and depressed, and worried, and sad, and bored. I didn’t like to be with me. I was downright whiny — and this momma has never done whiny!
My strategy to cope with this was, of course, to do something! While I was struggling to manage all the responsibilities of my full-time-plus position as a teacher and administrator of a high school, I spent evenings and weekends applying for all kinds of jobs where I could do less! After about six months doing that, I got an interview and an offer to do, shockingly, more! And then,….and then….a solution was provided! I didn’t have to do anything! My husband was offered a position that relocated us to a new environment and provided me with some time to just be. And here we are.
A long time ago, a huge group of people was following Jesus around, so he walked up the side of a mountain and started speaking to them. He said, “You are the salt of the earth….you are the light of the world.” He didn’t say “Be the salt of the earth.” Or, “be the light of the world.” He said “you are“. The word ‘are’ is the present tense plural form of ‘be’. We are already the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Our identify is not dependent on what we do. Our identity is firmly planted in Christ. We are His.
I enter this time of rest and be-ing chanting this mantra, “I am His. I am a human, being His.”
I will pray that you find some space to just be today, too.
Epilogue: Five years later, I’m still trying to find the balance between being and doing. I’m discovering in many areas of life that balance is not about choosing one option (i.e. being) over another (i.e. doing) but about finding ways to live in the tension of the existence of both. Our identity is based on who we are in Christ, and He calls us to do — to live our life — out of that truth. We can do great things because of who He has made us to be, which is really not as easy as it sounds, especially in a culture that values accomplishment and status. We can easily forget that the most important is already done; we quickly fall back into patterns of trying to do more to earn position, identity, or status. However, when we realize that our identity is based on who we are in Christ, we can freely do without the added pressure of earning our worth.
As I watched our granddaughters this weekend, I loved them every minute — when they were charming, when they were naughty, when they were sleeping, and when they were showing off. My love for them was not based on what they were doing; I am simply in love with their beings. As they grow, others may not be so kind, but the One who made them — and us — will love them through all the things that they do, while they learn who He has made them to be.
The same is true for you and me.
Be kind and compassionate to one another.”Ephesians 4:32