Welcome to Day 2 of Advent!
This week we want to talk about hope, the first of the four major themes of advent. But to do that, first we need to clear a little bit of space. Part of our hope for you is that this week you’ll be able to start clearing space in your heart to be able to receive all that God wants to give you. But that requires dealing with one of our biggest obstacles: a culture of relentless busyness.
In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that through technological innovation, our work would become so much more efficient that the average workweek would be reduced to just 15 hours. Today, his prediction reads like a sad joke. With smartphones and computers, many of us feel like we’re never off the clock. The ability to respond to emails comes with a sense of obligation to do so. We use vacation time to “catch up on work” and we feel like there’s always more work that we could be doing.
In fact, the demands of the unending production cycle can be so intense that some people even turn to drugs like Adderall to give themselves an edge. In the Netflix documentary Take Your Pills, Dr. Anjan Chatterjee says, “I sometimes joke about the fact that when I was in college, people did drugs to check out. Now, people do drugs to check in. That says something about our culture right now.”
Even if our loved ones aren’t abusing drugs in this way, the culture that leads to this desire affects all of us. Not only that, but many of us learn to wear our busyness like a badge of honor. The degree to which we’re involved in everything feels like the degree to which we have value.
For some of us, this is never more true than during the holiday season. For a few exhausting weeks, the busyness of normal life overlaps with the busyness of trying to prepare for Christmas. In all of this, it’s easy to neglect taking time for ourselves, and (ironically) to neglect taking time to simply be with the people closest to us.
In his book Margin, Richard Swenson writes:
We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back?
There’s a word in Icelandic, “Jolabokaflod,” which roughly translates to “Christmas book flood” in English. The tradition is at the center of Country Living’s article, “Why Icelanders Spend Every Christmas Eve Reading Books and Drinking Cocoa.” The article explains, “Jolabokaflod started during World War II, when paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland. Because of this, Icelanders gave books as gifts while other commodities were in short supply, turning them into a country of bookaholics to this day.”
Whether this sounds too boring or like your ideal Christmas Eve, the point is that there were specific causes that led to the development of Iceland’s cultural tradition. In the same way, there are specific causes that lead to our cultural traditions—and many of them have to do with consumerism, overwork, and anxiety about the future.
In all this, we remember our profound need for rest. To return to Swenson’s book Margin, “We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God commanded it and created us to have a need for it.” One of our main goals for you and your family during these 30 days is to help you rediscover the importance of resting from our busyness, and to help you carve out space to do that.
Sometime today, or as soon as you’re able, ask your family one of these questions:
- When was the last time you felt truly rested?
- What things leave you feeling truly rested afterward?
- What would striking a true work/life (or school/life) balance require?