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Stress Worship

February 18, 2010

Ever had one of those weeks when every day blends into the others? Where you can only find a separation between days by the cereal you eat in the morning that tells you it’s a new day. I’ve had one of those months. Time flies when you’re having fun. It flies even faster when you’re not. Every time I turn around, there are more things to do. Grading essays is neverending at my school, that assigns new essays to over 200 kids nearly every week. Then there are extra projects to do there, big and small. And preparing for a new job, arranging travel to Japan to get a new Visa to stay in Korea, applying for grad school, figuring out the FAFSA and US taxes from abroad, adjusting to newly married life: everything just blends into one massive headache. My days blend together as do my roles.

I should be authoritative and tough at work, aggressive in getting my work done on time, but sometimes that role blurs into my married life as well. I come home still upset about work, thinking about work, worrying about work, or the next step in my life, and I’m in an aggressive, “let’s-tackle-this-big-fish-problem-now-before-it-becomes-a-Moby-Dick-problem” mindset. Then I meet my new wife like that. Ouch. Talk about a poor greeting when I come home. It can be so easy sometimes to let my aggressive side come out when my wife does something only minorly upsetting. All the frustrations I’ve encountered throughout the day build up, and build up, and build up until the pour out in the place I least want them to: at home, in front of my new wife. And then I get upset and frustrated that I’m not a better example, leader, role model, husband. I just need a break.

Seriously, sometimes I consider, daydream really, about taking a break with no notice. Just wandering out alone in the woods somewhere to be quiet, alone, at rest. Recently, I read this interesting article from the Boundless webzine about resting. It quotes 20th century philosopher Josef Pieper (1904-1997) when he says:

A break, whether for an hour or three weeks, is designd to proide a respite from work in anticipation of more work; it finds its justification in relation to work. Leisure is something entirely different.

So, what I’m longing for isn’t so much a break as it is leisure. That’s true. Breaks don’t usually do it for me. During a break, all I can think about is the upcoming period of more work. Even when I go home at night to my wife, all I can think about is how much I have yet to do. A James Bond movie contains a famous quote about “there will be enough time to sleep when you’re dead.” Sometimes it seems that true breaks will only come at that point as well. But then I’m reminded that it isn’t a break I’m longing for, not a good night’s sleep, or a weekend away, but leisure. Pure, plain, boring, leisure.

The Boundless article goes on to quote G.K. Chesterton:

I know it takes all sorts to make a world; but I cannot repress a shudder when I see them throwing away their hard-won holidays by doing something. For my part, I never can get enough Nothing to do.

Later, they write:

With all our choices of activities and events, we rarely opt for “none of the above.” Or if we do, we feel guilty since there is so much to do [true for me – ED]. And silence? We live in a noisy, image- and word-filled world. During our free time we often plunge into the torrent of sensory data by watching TV or movies, playing video games, surfing the Internet. These work against true leisure which is an inner quiet that receives and reverences the good of Creations, of others, and of God without expending needless mental, physical, and emotional energy.

So true. Ever notice how whenever you get a break, and spend it with TV, games, or the Internet, it doesn’t really feel like much time has passed by the time it’s time to work again? Have you ever wanted to be bored? I know I have. Have you ever been bored enough that you’ve wanted silence? I have. In that silence, have you taken time, real time, to pause and look around, really look, at this world God has created? Have you ever noticed how a leaf falls from a tree in the fall? Or how the breeze blows grass in the spring? What leisure, what pleasure! And that is no break. A break doesn’t free my mind as leisure does. A break reminds me that I’ve still got work to do, and I’m only pausing for a moment to eat, go to the bathroom, recharge my batteries to work longer and harder. But leisure? How freeing it is to know that you have nothing to do! How freeing it is to allow yourself to get bored! Let me for a moment rejoice in my wife’s two-month respite from work! What a joy it must be to be able to be bored! Such leisure!

But, boredom is not leisure in itself, just a sign of being at ease. When bored, we know that there are no other pressing, ugent matters that require our attention. However, as the Boundless article points out, Pieper also writes that worship is the epitome of leisure:

Leisure depends on the pre-condition that we find the world and our own selves agreeable. And here follows the offensive but inevitable consquence: the highest conceivable form of approving of the world as such is found in the worship of God, in the praise of the Creator, in the liturgy. With this we have finally identified the deepest root of leisure.

Upon reading this, I was struck by it’s assertion. Was leisure truly exemplified in worship? I had to put these claims to the test. And so, I broke out my guitar, and started playing. And as I played, the world melted away, and my mind and heart were filled with song. All my pressing obligations, all my worries faded into the background of my own creation of worship for my Creator. And thus, I found leisure at last. Time passed, and I played until my fingers couldn’t press the strings any longer, but then I played some more. Once claimed, leisure, and worship, were things I didn’t want to release.

Outside the circle of music, the ring of the chords, the echo of my voice, rested work, business, stress. Once I left, I knew it would be easy to get busy again, stressed again, aggresive again. But we all have to live in the world and deal with the constant pressures of being human as well as God’s children. The problem for me is that when I’m busy, stressed, and aggressive, it is hard to worship. And therefore, it is hard to find leisure, to rest and renew my spirit in the goodness of my Creator. Much as I try, if I’m overly stressed, I can’t worship. My heart doesn’t join my song, my hand, my guitar. How can I worship stressed? I can’t.

So, rather that trying to worship stressed, why don’t we stress worship: true worship. To find leisure and true peace in the busyness that is our modern world, we must, as Pieper declares, “find the world and our own selves agreeable” and “the highest conceivable form of approving of the world as such is found in the worship of God, in the praise of the Creator…” So, in whatever form it may be, worship God, the Creator of humanity and all the Earth. Rejoice in His goodness, His provision, His infinite wisdom and creativity (who would have ever invented a Duck-billed Platypus if not creative?). But, remember to not worship stressed, and therefore worship falsely. Rather, stress worship, true worship, and seek to worship God with your true heart, your whole heart, everyday.

If we could only do that, what a change we would see in our world, in ourselves. Worship in leisure, and leisure in worship. May God be praised. He is the Creator of all things.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. billvorhees permalink
    April 2, 2010 2:24 pm

    Cool stuff. How come I can’t subscribe, though?

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