Don’t ask me why but I recently watched some Hallmark-esque movie about a hopeless romantic who meets the man of her dreams only to discover he’s not actually what she wants. More interesting than the story itself was its side narrative of the main character’s sister, the sister’s boyfriend, and their recent engagement.
The story goes as such: right when everything seemed hunky-dory, their relationship took a turn for the worst. The wedding was around the corner and the man was nowhere to be seen. Every time they planned to be together, whether for dates or wedding planning, he “had to work.” This practically persisted the entire movie until one day the girl vanished, ignoring his phone calls. When he finally got a chance to explain, it turned out he’d been working all those hours to get her a legitimate engagement ring. She took him back; they got married, and presumably lived happily ever after.
At the end of it, all I could think about was how 1) flashing some fancy ring would not have worked that easily in real life (most people would’ve preferred time with the person to some object) and 2) how I know that because I’ve been there before. Not just with my wife, but with God as well.
I worship the idol of productivity. That is to say, I find my worth in what I can accomplish; and because no idol is satisfied without a sacrifice, what gets sacrificed is my connectedness to God.
Most people, when I say that, will ask me if I’m having quiet times and refer me to the tail-end of Mark 1 but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about those tender, solitary moments with Jesus that happens in quiet and stillness, unrushed and unhurried, the kind of moments that teach you how to remain in solitude with God even when you’re not alone. Like the man in the story I get so caught up in doing things for God, I forget all he wants is me. The issue isn’t that I’m not having quiet times. The problem is that I’ve quarantined God to those one or two hours so that I can get stuff done.
Beneath all this is my desire to people please. I’m so terrified of being perceived as a dead-weight disciple I do my best to produce and perform, compromising my relationship with God as I work to find my value in work and other people’s opinions. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Sitting with God for extended periods of time feels counterintuitive.
But here’s the thing: in doing things by my own effort I’m wasting energy. Sitting in His presence allows us to discern his will and gain next steps. But more importantly, it allows us to separate who we are from what we do. We are no longer staff workers or leaders; we are His children whom He ransomed.
Working hard isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good thing. But too much of a good thing can become, as they say, a “God” thing. And that is idolatry, which I’ve been wrestling with for the past month.