Everything Else

Defining Ourselves: Relentless Busyness & Nouwen

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, and about how we always claim we never have enough. I was listen to a podcast recently that got me pondering this again. We love to define ourselves by what we do: student, pastor, dentist, administrator, artist, accountant…. on and on it goes.

As a society, we work longer and harder than ever before. Gotta get that presentation finished; need to do just a little bit more revision; can’t take a break now… Have we forgotten how to rest?

Over the past 5 months God has been breaking me down. Since I left university in January (hmm, not sure I ever officially blogged that… oh well!), I’ve just been pottering about, haven’t been working or anything. I knew initially that I needed to take some time off, to rest, to relax, to just be. I went traveling for a month (the States and England). But since I got back, I’ve been job hunting, unsuccessfully. It’s funny how much a lack of work has affected my mood at times. I’m trying to learn that I am not defined by what I do, really learn it, and not just give verbal ascent to the idea.

I’m struck by these words from Henri Nouwen:

When we enter into solitude to be with God alone, we quickly discover how dependent we are. Without the many distractions of our daily lives, we feel anxious and tense. When nobody speaks to us, calls on us, or needs our help, we start feeling like nobodies. Then we begin wondering whether we are useful, valuable, and significant. Our tendency is to leave this fearful solitude quickly and get busy again to reassure ourselves that we are ‘somebodies’. But this is a temptation, because what makes us somebodies is not other people’s responses to us but God’s eternal love for us.

I’m learning to play again. I have crayons on my desk. I stopped at the park on the way home and played on the swings for a while. I’m going for long walks. I’m trying to train my gaze again, to make it larger than ever before. And it’s hard. It takes so much effort, I feel like I’m relearning all the things I did in primary school and dreaming about those things again – the things I somehow was taught that I wasn’t good at or were only for children. I’m searching again for things that are life-giving and restorative for me, that I may be fully present with others and with myself.

Your shout: What things are life-giving and relaxing for you?

3 thoughts on “Defining Ourselves: Relentless Busyness & Nouwen

  1. hmmm i like these thoughts. i have been trying to figure out how to slow down….i am failing. i remember when i first heard rob talk about rest, it hit me straight on, but years later i still can’t figure out how to properly embody it. its a long road for some of us i think.

  2. D’you know I’ve been trying to work out a way to wind down from exams (which has been feeling nigh impossible over the last few days) and you’ve just answered my question! Thanks Emma! Things that I find relaxing and lifegiving… going to the park to run around, stare at the sky and feel the grass between my toes, listening to beautiful music, jamming beautiful music, writing, eating yummy food… and I think I’ll stop by Downhill Park for some swing action on the way home later 🙂

  3. @ julie: i’m with you on that, it’s a long road for me too i think. i’m still wrestling with how to embody it. i guess we just have to keep journeying it, and somewhere down the line we’ll start to figure it out.

    @ dish: sounds fantastic! hope you’re slowly finding ways to wind down. running around in the park sounds very relaxing.

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