I recently read a book where the author, upon returning to the United States from a year abroad, referred to our culture's busy, production-propelled, output-focused lifestyle as the American rat race. We routinely schedule in more and more events, meetings, and coffee dates, filling up our calendars so that we must say to our friends "I'm so booked this week, I can't make it." We love running around, seeing and doing so much, giving ourselves a pat on the back for our all little daily feats. And if we haven't met our quota of x amount of projects by the end of the week, we feel like a failure.
But at the end of the week, it's exhausting. It's crazy how sitting in an office 5 days a week can drain the energy from you so quickly. By the time we get home on Friday night, all we want to do is lay on the couch, watch TV, and have a bowl of ice cream. Whew, we think, thank God it's Friday!
Sound familiar? My question is: where's the joy of living? Where is the desire to connect with people, get involved in our communities, form lasting relationships? To share special moments with our loved ones?
This has been my growing realization since returning to my country in February. As much as I love the feeling of accomplishment, and filling up my planner, I have been doubting the virtue of this lifestyle. As much as I feel that my worth is tied to the things I do (cue my recent mid-20's crisis and uncertainty of my life's calling), I know deep in my heart that my identity is in Christ. It has absolutely nothing to do with what I do: the job I attain, the riches I accumulate, the lists that get checked off.
Having lived in a culture where the focus is totally opposite, on relationships above time or work, I have relaxed a little. I've watched myself become more laid-back when things don't go as planned, and be able to enjoy chatting with friends as I wait for the rest to show up for a meeting they are already 10 minutes late for. In Ecuador, people were valued much more than performance. It was quality above quantity. This is something I want to keep with me as I transition back into life in the U.S.
I am not saying that having a schedule is a bad thing. Far from it. Being time-oriented helps the American culture in that we can move efficiently and effectively to help many people. That being said, I am suggesting that maybe it's a good idea to take a breather every once in a while. Stop to smell the roses. Get to know our neighbors. Take the time to really find out how someone is doing when you pass them on the street. How hard would that be?
So, I am rejecting the go-go-go way of living. I will complete my tasks to the best of my ability and work hard at my job, because our ultimate goal is to serve underprivileged families and sow seeds of love and hope in children. And that is a cause worth fighting for. But I will also make use of my time to rest in the Lord, listen to the stories of my neighbors, and be present in my community. And I will give myself the moments I need to rejuvenate and recharge before going at it again.