Disillusioned by productivity

21 Jun

I have loved these past 2 weeks. I have had some relaxation time but I’ve also been very productive. And strangely, it is the productive part that makes me feel the best. I have gotten back into the habit of cooking actual dinners, which has been good. I even made banana bread one day! I cleaned the whole house, including the refrigerator and microwave. Travis and I (finally!) cleaned out the drain to my bathroom sink (it has been clogged since we moved in!!!) so my sink stays clean now – before, it had soap buildup again the first time you used it after cleaning it. I went grocery shopping, fixed a couple of necklaces that had been broken for about 6 months, gave Katy a bath, watered the lawn, got my hair cut, read a whole book and started another, went on a 9 and a 1o mile run, redid my nails, bought new bras and running clothes, and did laundry 3 times.

I love being productive!

I wish I could add “spent time with the Lord every morning” to that list – I’m getting there. I need to remind myself that productivity, in the end, amounts to nothing. I mean, let’s be honest. In just a few days, there will be dirty dishes and a pile of laundry to be washed. In a week, the house will need cleaning again and the refrigerator will be pathetically empty. In a month, my nails will be chipped and in 2 months, my hair will start getting split ends. All of these things are temporary. The feeling of accomplishment they bring is short and fleeting.

Productivity isn’t a bad thing – but for me, it can be dangerous. The feeling of being productive, of going to bed with the great feeling I get from crossing off most things on my to-do list, allows me to forget – just for a little bit – how helpless, incapable, and needy I really am. I feel good about myself when I’m productive. I don’t feel sinful, weak, and pitiful.

I don’t think that is God’s goal for me – to feel good about myself (for then why would I think I have a need for a Savior?). But I also don’t think His goal is for me to feel weak and pitiful. Rather, I like what Oswald Chambers said in today’s devotional:

“The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our ‘hanging on by the skin of our teeth,’ although we say, ‘What a wonderful victory I have!’ Yet there is nothing in all of that which indicates the miracle of redemption… You are perfect only in Christ, not on the basis of this argument: ‘Oh Lord, I have done my best…’

“How long is it going to take God to free us from this unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus.”

Like Tim Keller said in his sermon Blessed Self-Forgetfulness, humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. I am so guilty of being self-centered. SO guilty. Guilty to the nth degree. As Chambers puts it, I cannot reach and understand the depths of my own meagerness. I cannot comprehend how little I bring to the table. I can’t get my mind around how insufficient I am even on the days when it feels like I accomplished the world. But there are still those days when I constantly dwell on my meagerness, as if that were the way to make me less meager.

Productivity has the power to distract me from the fact that Christ is sufficient so I don’t have to be. And I can be content in knowing I am not. Paul was content with his weaknesses – “…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Nevertheless, I cling to productivity like a safety blanket. My sinful flesh will use anything it can to escape the reminder of my own insufficiency. I don’t want to be dependent – I want to have it all together. The issue with being insufficient is not that I am not living up to God’s expectations of me – “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). It is that I don’t live up to my own expectations of me. I’m not all that I would imagine myself to be. Productivity gives me the illusion of being that person – but who am I after the dust settles (quite literally), the clothes are stained and the dog is dirty? Who am I then? I am lost.

A good friend sent me this quote when I was feeling quite down on myself and I return to it often, as a reminder of God’s love for me: “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worse about me, so that no discovery can now disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

It is a tough thing – to be okay with not being everything you’d like to be. To accept being disappointed by yourself often. To be disillusioned, as the quote put it, about your own behavior and character and still think there might be hope for you.

Yes, everyday is a new day, full of new opportunities to make right what you made wrong the previous day. But I’m sure that I am not done disillusioning myself, not done with failing to live up to my own expectations. Which is why I’m glad God will continue to disillusion me with my illusions, reminding me that it’s a good thing to be a sinner, poor and needy, saved by grace alone.

It means I can rest.

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