The Vacation We All Need to Take (337)

“The key isn’t to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
— Stephen Covey

When I first read that quote from Mr. Covey, I said to myself: “Oh great, now that’s one more thing I’m doing wrong in my life. I need to start scheduling my priorities. But my schedule isn’t my own. I have commitments to keep and others counting on me.” Makes me kind of sound self-important, doesn’t it? And that’s what I want others to think. But maybe you and I have far more control over our schedules than we care to admit? Maybe we use our busyness to avoid facing certain truths about ourselves? Our schedules become nothing other than a distracting drug narcotizing us from ourselves.

Recent labor data show that, in the aggregate, we work longer hours than we used to. We also work those longer hours with increased productivity, but we do so for less pay than in the past. And we don’t take all the vacation time we’re allowed. Such busyness in our work lives must then be a surrogate for something else. Maybe it’s our way of proving our self-worth to ourselves and others? Bragging about how busy we are has become a new status symbol. And that must make us important, right? It proves we’re indispensable. Yet, it might be just another way we engage in self-justification.

Earlier this year, Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, reported on some ironic practices by experts whose jobs are to help us find appropriate work-life balance. Kathy Simons, the Director of the Work-Life Center at MIT, has advocated for years for more humane workplace policies and family-friendly benefits. Her research indicates that people who don’t take vacations are 30%-50% more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who take vacations. And yet for five years, Simons herself hasn’t taken a vacation. Talk about “physician heal thyself!”

And Phyllis Stewart Pires traveled the world helping people who worked for her global tech company to improve their work-life balance. One day she found herself in an ambulance racing to hospital. She later said: “I was missing family events. My friends were calling me out on being AWOL. My husband was calling me out on not doing my share. It was almost like I was obsessed with this idea that people were counting on me to really make a difference in their workplace. I couldn’t let them down.” So, she let her friends and family down instead. We all have this need to justify ourselves, don’t we?

”Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10). As my Daddy would say: Jesus has her number, doesn’t he? Martha was using her busyness as a distraction; as a way for her to avoid facing her anxiety about her life and relationship with God, which is the “one thing” needed. And Jesus has our number, too. But rather than exploiting that, he simply says:” Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11). Jesus offers us an eternal vacation from what seems to be our life project at justifying ourselves. That’s a vacation we all need to take.



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