Blessings in unexpected packaging

I have a lot of things I enjoy doing. Probably to the point of over-involvement. Like, taking grad classes isn’t enough, I have to take an undergrad course for fun (but it’s biblical Hebrew and the prof’s a friend of mine, come on). Or, grading my students’ papers once isn’t enough, I have to mark all the draft versions, too (it’s worth it, seriously). I won’t even start on all my (fun, awesome) church involvements. And I have friends! A social life!

Well, last week I got sick. Nothing major, just a full-blown cold, but it knocked me to the dirt for a few days (I’m still not back on my feet).

I didn’t grade papers, I didn’t write papers, I didn’t get ahead on reading. I didn’t clean the apartment. I didn’t go to the evening Ash Wednesday service where I was supposed to be singing with the choir—in fact, I broke my Lenten fast: the food one on Wednesday, in order to eat soup and cookies; and the Lent-long one from watching TV and movies alone, to placate my cold-addled brain with stories and voices and the comforting LCD glow of a screen. I even skipped classes on Thursday to sleep.

Guess what? The world did not stop. Choir went along just fine without me. I made up my missed Hebrew quiz. My students did the work I gave them and didn’t seem to mind a missed class day. Everything’s working out fine. I didn’t irreparably miss out on something (search “FOMO”—I’m not the only one who thinks this way).

I needed that reminder. Sometimes, when I’m humming along at my peak, I start to overestimate myself. “Look how much I contribute to this community. Look at all the people depending on me. Look at all I do!” Me, me, me. I, I, I. Do, do, do.

I do contribute, and that’s a good thing, but it’s not everything. AND, shockingly, I’m not the only person who can do the things I do. Other people can do stuff, too. Better than I can, sometimes. Inconceivable! (Yeah, I totally watched The Princess Bride while I was sick-moping on the sofa.)

Yesterday’s sermon had a big dose of Reformation flavor, with a focus on salvation-as-gift faith-not-works: “We can make Christianity about hard work, but then we lose the Gospel.” The priest said (and maintains this actually happened) that on Saturday night he dreamed that he preached the sermon and everybody quit—the property committee, altar guild, choir, vestry. Everyone who keeps the church going. Hard work is important—but it isn’t the Gospel.

I think the Gospel is a little more like all the friends who, on hearing I was sick (with a cold, mind you, I’m not dying), wished me well and offered to bring me anything I needed. One friend didn’t even ask, just left a big bowl of soup outside my door—which was probably the most effective thing to do, because I’m lousy at receiving gifts, accepting help, and/or admitting weakness. I’m good at doing. It would be a lot easier for me if the Gospel were about checking off a to-do list.

I plan to go back to all the things I was doing before my cold struck, back to all my delightful, time-filling, busy-making activities. I’ll be less desperate, perhaps, less driven to make it to everything, to not miss out, to fit in all the good works. Or maybe not—you can see I’m not taking another day off from the blog. I only missed one day of school; I went back on Friday, even though it meant that Friday evening I was too exhausted to do anything but microwave a bowl of soup and lie on the couch with a blanket and a movie. I went to church yesterday, and sang my alto heart out with the choir.

The thing is, I’m really busy, but I’m not too busy—not yet. And the activities that would be easiest to cut out of my schedule right now are those that are most life-giving and presence-of-God-awakening—things I’m really reluctant to give up. Striking a balance is difficult, and I don’t claim to be doing so in an ideal way. That’s why I’m grateful for occasional roadblocks that turn out to be signs pointing to rest, to love, and to strength made perfect in weakness.


How do you strike a balance with busyness and rest? Do you have trouble relinquishing responsibility and action? Do you suffer from FOMO? How have you experienced the Gospel recently?


2 thoughts on “Blessings in unexpected packaging

  1. I thrive on busyness. I didn’t need the reinforcement, but I got it today anyways when all of a sudden I went from 100 mph to a standstill – it was horrifying. I was literally depressed that all of a sudden, here I was on a beautiful spring afternoon with nothing to do.

    I need to find more life-giving activities to ground me in my daily life. I can’t strike that balance between rest and busyness very well.

  2. I function most efficiently at 100 mph, and it’s often hard to convince myself that “most efficiently” is not necessarily the same as “best.” Perhaps this has been my key lesson of the season. (As for grounding, life-giving activities, well, you already know my suggestion. 😉 )

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