By Allison Antram, Managing Editor
All right friends, I’m going to be honest and say my last semester was a disaster. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I’m not going to list it off responsibilities and play the I’m-more-stressed-than-you game, but trust me when I say that I was unreasonably busy. I wasn’t myself by the end of the semester.
But the more I talk with people about it, the more I realize I am not the only one; I’m not even in a minority. Instead I find that the majority of Asburians share this ailment–a constant state of busyness, exhaustion and unrest.
At Asbury, we are wonderfully blessed with innumerable opportunities for community, leadership, activity and spiritual growth – all very good things that make us well-rounded individuals. The problem is, we say yes to all of them. We fill our schedules, we lose all sense of margin or rest, we brag our lengthy list of accomplishments and wear our exhaustion like a badge of honor.
Is this really how we were intended to live?
Obviously not. The Bible repeatedly speaks to living a life of rest (Psalm 23). We have been commanded to reserve a day for Sabbath. God created the earth in six days, rested on the seventh and created a rhythm in humanity. We know these things.
But too often we default to “I just don’t have time for that;” most of us shrug off the idea, or even laugh at it. Stress becomes a natural part of life, and a socially acceptable sin. Our Sabbaths, for the few that attempt them, look more like a “Sabb-ish”–it’s just a day off filled with miscellaneous tasks and errands and a Netflix binge (have you ever actually felt rested and fulfilled after watching five plus hours of Grey’s Anatomy?). I think we have forgotten what it means to live balanced and restfully.
Rest is not synonymous with sleeping or being lazy; the kind of rest God offers us is a deep, soul rest that pervades every moment and wraps us in peace and contentment. When did we last experience that? If you were to ask me, I would tell you I’ve just been too busy.
While our lives should be full, I don’t think we were meant to live busy and without margin. There is no denying that we were created to work with excellence, for the glory of God, but we were created to do so with a balance of rest. And there is no way to live in such a way if we say “yes” to everything.
The problem is, we feel the need to say yes because our desire to be involved and accomplished and impressive often finds root in selfish reasons. In his study of work and rest (I highly recommend all college students read “Garden City”), John Mark Comer observed the story of the city of Babel in Genesis 11 and suggests that their lofty building project reached for a kind of pseudo, self-glorifying spirituality. It speaks to a well-intentioned ambition that can seize us in our effort to, as the people of Babel said, “make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4).
Comer says that “they’re looking to work for identity and status. As a rating system to see how they measure up to the people around them… as human beings, we have this slant to look to our work for significance we can only find in God.”
Sound familiar? In my senior year more than ever, I frequently look around, compare and begin to question myself–are they a better writer than I am? More spiritual or wise? More beautiful? More qualified? In order to measure up, I better do more, so I can be more.
And this is the root of our ailment. We lack an authentic identity, so we look for it in what we do. We make ourselves more accomplished, more marketable, more likeable and more busy because that (we hope) will give us purpose. We have created a system of living that is completely backwards where who we are flows out of what we do, rather than the other way around.
If we first go to God, he will show us who we are and give us the freedom to live into that. When we know who we truly are, we don’t have to work overtime to create it. We are free to say no, because we know what we are not and we know what we do not need to do. We can reenter the life of rest he designed us for, because we are content in who we are. The striving can stop. How beautifully liberating is that?
So as we enter into a new semester and a new year, I encourage my fellow over-workers to say “no” more often. I encourage us to seek a deeper kind of identity. I encourage us to make the time to Sabbath. And I encourage us to seek God first, not in our spare time. If we can do this, perhaps we can begin to rediscover what it means to live as a child of God.