Productivity. It’s one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses. I’m someone who can and likes to get a great deal done in a relatively short amount of time. Strength and, as I say, weakness. Examples: I type super fast but do so by attacking my keyboard and thus have carpal tunnel syndrome. I can knock out three errands in an hour (without the kids of course!) but I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to go back for my sunglasses. You get the idea. I have a hard time slowing myself down, and I burn myself out without even realizing it.
A few years ago when I was feeling particularly overloaded, I took an activities fast that was the perfect exercise for me to step back, pray, reflect, and regroup. It was a wonderful and fruitful time for me. Here’s some of what I wrote about the fast a few months later:
“Why was I addicted to over-scheduling my life and taxing myself so heavily? What was driving me? How could I stop? I didn’t know the answers but I knew that God had the answers.
I decided to fast for two weeks, not by using food, though, but fast by using time. The thing I needed to abstain from was not eating, but doing. For activity was what had a hold on my life, I realized – it was my driving force. Activity and productivity were my idols, so an activity fast was the logical step. The “activities fast” began the next day. Basically it meant that I would not put any new appointments on my calendar that didn’t need to be there. The ones that were already there – a Bible study, a doctor’s appointment, a few work commitments, church – could stay. The point was not to be legalistic, just proactive. In essence, through the activities fast, I said to myself: “you will not take on any new activities for two weeks. You will keep quiet days and deliberately spend free time with God.” I did not watch any TV and I limited my reading in order to prioritize open space of mind and heart – and time to hear from God.
So for two weeks, I backed out of ‘normal life.’ I took a lot of long walks with my son in his jogging stroller. During his naps, I sat on the porch with the Bible and a journal and spent unharried time in the Word and in prayer. It was a wonderful and fruitful time. I felt balanced and centered by the end of it. I felt grounded in God.
At one point during the fast, I was sitting quietly on our porch when my husband, who had been jogging, came up the driveway. ‘What’s wrong?’ he called out as he approached. ‘Nothing; why?’ I replied. “I just never see you sitting doing nothing,’ he replied. ‘I figured something must be wrong.’ That moment was a wake-up call for me. I do not want to be that woman, the peaceless one who never sits still – and God wants it even less than I do. That one moment was a picture of what God was doing for me and in me during my fast; He was allowing me to see myself more clearly, calling me to repentance, and teaching me how to live a godlier life.”
I’ve never repeated the activity fast, though I remember at the time thinking it would be a good idea. But a week or two ago I was reminded of the activities fast – reminded of how powerful it was, how freeing. It felt like God might be prodding me to do one again. Two days later when I had my series of crazy household mishaps, I felt confirmation. Yes, I’m definitely overloaded and scattered and feeling the effects in my spirit and behavior… Time to put the to-do list aside and spend some quiet time, the small amounts I get each day and evening, actually being quiet. (Added bonus that it’s Lent – the ordained time for reflection, prayer, and self-assessment in conjunction with Christ… I admit that this is a complete coincidence, from my end if not God’s.) So as often as possible, I’m going to do that for the next weekor so. Generally speaking involvement in the web doesn’t contribute to the quieting of my soul, so I’ll be scaling back on that this week as well. See you next week!