do less

Friday is my day off. Mostly. Usually. 87% of the time.

I’m really bad at taking time off. Like, so bad that my church leadership just re-negotiated my contract for next year and requested that I put a regular, monthly tally of how many vacation days I’ve used in my pastor’s report so that they can make sure I’m taking them. Like, so bad that I only took 2 Sundays off in the whole of 2021. Like, so bad that when I took Monday off this week to finish Christmas shopping, I got to late afternoon and was at a loss for what to do with myself. I wondered, in those hours, how in the world I am going to fill an entire month of not working when I come to March’s sabbatical.

It’s not that there is really all that much work to be done – in a normal week, my responsibilities easily fit into the hours I’m paid for. It’s more about my own deeply rooted sense that my value is firmly lodged in my productivity.

This is wrong, obviously. It is anti-Christian, anti-Christ, anti-scripture, anti-grace, anti-humanity. No human’s worth is based on how much they can produce in any given day. We are worthy because we exist. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone in order to be loved and valued and have the right to live freely and with joy.

And I still end the day tallying up all the tasks I accomplished and mentally writing a to-do list for the next morning. I have a to-do list for today, my day off. I will feel annoyed and kind of useless if I don’t get the four things on the list accomplished. I’m sure that these assumptions and expectations can be traced back to some Protestant Work Ethic theology wrapped in my Anabaptist Service Oriented Identity. I know that my college emphasized Being a Person Who Changes the World for Good at every turn. It’s also true that our political economy, which tells me every day that I am not worth anything if I don’t work/pay taxes/buy local/support charities/stimulate the economy/make the world a better place factors into the ways I understand my place and worth in the world.

And, I confess, that I’m no good at countering these messages on my own. I need other people to remind me that sitting for hours over a cup of tea and conversation is valuable. I need my church leadership to chide me for not taking days off and demand that I make that a tenet of our employment agreement. I need leaders and mentors to model what value looks like outside of work. I need friends with whom to schedule implication-less, labor-free activities.

Otherwise, I’m just over here stuck in this endless cycle of not doing enough, demanding that I do more, feeling exhausted but unable to find real rest. It stinks.

I’ve been paying attention to people who are talking about this and insisting on revolution – The Nap Ministry, Anne Helen Petersen’s new book, a brand new Church of the Brethren pastoral agreement coming soon, the Bible. If you are someone who is good at not working, I would love to hear how you do it.

One comment

  1. Zeke · December 10, 2021

    B, I am sorry as I am sure some of that is inherited 🤷‍♂️🤔!

    I too am trying to find that satisfaction and relief from doing nothing and I am afraid I may be real good at it

    Love ❤️ ya


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