The other day a parishioner called me a workaholic. Guilty as charged, although I’m working on it.
I’ve gotten better at the art of saying “no” and setting boundaries around my time. But it can be hard for me to step away from work. I often feel like the only thing that keeps this tendency of mine in check is my commitment to family. A common refrain for clergy is: “Marriage vows before ordination vows.” Here’s another one: “Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of the church.”
These sentiments aren’t only for religious professionals or people with families. Work can take over anyone’s life and threaten important relationships, including our relationship to God and relationship to self. To quote a clergy colleague, “Whether working within the office or within the home, retired or still in school, unemployed or ‘funemployed,’ all of us work, and often too hard.”
In fact, we can work so hard and long that we start to wear the hours we log like a badge of honor rather than seeing them as a sign of something that needs to change. Been there, done that.
While I have happily stayed put in my job (despite a few escapist thoughts to flee during the thick of the pandemic), I have been intrigued by the “Great Resignation.”
The pandemic has caused people to rethink their careers, work conditions, and long-term goals. It’s been a time of deep introspection on a number of levels, and people have left their jobs for a variety of reasons — wage stagnation, job dissatisfaction, Covid related safety concerns, and the desire to work for companies with better remote-working policies.
Of the people I’ve spoken with in this boat, most have expressed a desire to reclaim their time, whether through the efficiencies of working remotely or simply working less. Some have mentioned the trend of “quiet quitting” — doing exactly what a job requires and not one bit more in order to avoid burnout and maintain personal well-being.
It seems that work-life balance is a constant concern. I would venture to say it’s something we have to work at, or put differently, be disciplined about. Work is a gift from God, and so is rest. For me, that elusive balance can only be found in the concept of Sabbath and holy leisure.
Holy leisure is about the quality, as opposed to the quantity, of our rest. It’s about resting well. Holy leisure both engages and relaxes the body, mind, and soul. This could include reading a novel, light recreation, catching up with a friend, or prayerful mediation. What is doesn’t include is mindless leisure, like endless scrolling through social media, or attempting to do a leisurely activity while staying preoccupied with work and checking email every five minutes. Again, been there, done that.
This Labor Day is a good time to take stock of the presence of holy leisure in our lives. And, of course, take time for some holy leisure while we’re at it. For when we rest well, we can give from a full cup when we go back to our holy labor.