“Ohmygosh, I’ve found the BEST parenting book!
“You read a book? When do you find time?!?
“I don’t know… I don’t watch TV, so that helps.”

Video is a weirdly difficult medium for me. I can read or I can listen, but video requires both eyes and ears, frequently at normal speed (unlike reading or podcasts, both of which I consume much faster).

I like feeling productive. Actually, it’s deeper and more sinister than that—I need to feel productive. I’ve long equated my value with my usefulness. Watching TV for fun makes me panic a little. It feels like I’m letting time slip by that I could use to make myself worthier. Reading is fine—I have a huge stack of books to be read and a list of ones I’ve finished, so reading helps move them from one list to the other, which feels productive. But TV? No.

It’s a lingering misunderstanding of the gospel, really: I believe (regardless of what I “know”) that my value depends on me.

I believe I can make myself more acceptable by doing more, and less by wasting time.

In reality, I was created in the image of God (same as you) and my value stems from my Creator. My productivity is useless to change my worth.

As I typed that last sentence, my gut reaction is Bummer! What a waste of my effort! This shows how deep the utility-as-worth mindset is ingrained. That my effort is unrelated to my value is actually great news.

So I started watching The Good Place with Andrew on Netflix. And it’s hard. It’s hard not to have a laptop or phone up handy do things (or feel like I’m doing things) while I watch, or at least have paper and pen handy so I can write down things to do later.

It’s weird—watching a show clearly counter to the gospel helps me remember it. (The whole premise is an afterlife in the “good place” or the “bad place” based on a complex points system based on works.) But sitting down to laugh at a hilarious show with my husband and be specifically unproductive helps me remember that my worth isn’t related to my utility. It’s fasting from checking off my list, and it’s hard in exactly the same way as fasting from food is hard. There’s the habitual and compulsive turning toward what I’m abstaining from (in this case, doing things), a difficult and frustrating denial of that urge, and a reluctant repentance to what I’ve chosen instead.

Some part of me that prizes the to-do list is irritatedly harping that I’m just justifying laziness by cloaking it in terms of discipline, but at least I’m writing about it, and that counts as productive. And that part may be right. But the “laziness” pointing me toward rest, sabbath, and the gospel, so I’m going with it.

How about you? Any quirky spiritual disciplines that point you to the gospel? Also, if you fight the productivity-equals-worth lie, I’d love to hear how.

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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  1. I loved this one, particularly because I binge-watched the last half of season 2 of The Good Place on Monday night then had a very hard day of anxiety and depression the next day (it came out of the blue). I found myself feeling guilty for just veging out and watching mindless yet very funny TV and was struck as you were with the very opposite message of the gospel in that show. You definitely have a way with words… You articulated clearly the challenge of not trying to find our value and worth in being productive. I feel like I’ve been wrestling with some version of being vs doing for most of my life.

    So here’s a question for you… How do you do Bible study without approaching it as “checking off the list” or doing it out of obligation? I often swing too far either way, I start reading regularly and then feel like I’m doing it because “I’m supposed to” so then I’ll stop and not read at all. Any insight or breakthrough you’ve experienced in this would be helpful. I was given a 90 day “Explore by the Book” study book on John 14-17, Romans and James by Timothy Keller and Sam Allberry that I began this morning.

    Why is it so dang hard to just BE and know we are accepted just because we belong to Him? I think most of my depression stems from an inaccurate view of myself and too much introspection on myself!




    1. I’ve had the same problem with Bible study/devotional reading. For most of my life, my tactic has just been to press on, checking it off the list and trusting God to do what He will with it. Then there was a spell (2016-17?) where I didn’t… I read a devotional most days, but that was all, really. Honestly, it may have been necessary to stop a while for me to come at it fresh. Last year, I decided I was going to read through the Bible daily, no excuses. It started out pretty dry, but then I started listening to it instead and for whatever reason, my brain just handles it differently and it hit my heart in a very different way. I still do that, though I’ve also added an additional gospel reading (listening) because I need the gospel in my head. I didn’t do any legit study between Katherine’s birth and this past fall when I figured out that Blue Letter Bible has an app and I don’t have to whip out my big-ass concordance (can I say that? I’m gonna) in order to look things up. And now, I do it in batches a couple times a week, because trying to do a little each day becomes a chore and also I don’t do it, which seems like a lose-lose to me.

      And there are a lot of disciplines likewise making their way back into my practice in a meaningful way, even ones that I’ve never tried. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Emily Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl would be a really good read for you. And I just finished Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines, which was wonderful, though not as easy a read. I have Spirit of the Disciplines. Grace for the Good Girl is on perpetual loan, I think, but it may be available at the library or you could request it. Or eventually I’ll buy another copy. (Not before Easter, though, because Lent. Lol.)

      Anyway. I guess I can tell you what I’ve done and what I’m doing, but really, it’s been the Spirit at work within me. God knows I’d never move toward Him otherwise.


  2. Yes! I would go so far as to call productivity an idol. At dinner when we discuss our high points and low points of the day, I almost always hash out my to-do list. “My high is that as I got ___ done. My low is that I didn’t get ____ done.” The last THREE days I have had a baby with a stomach bug. So, I have been sitting on the couch. Nursing, changing clothes, adding to the ever-growing mound of laundry. If I try to get up, my darling boy follows me crying pathetically. So I sit and watch the dishes pile up. Here’s where I should reveal my big take away. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. Just the reminder that my worth doesn’t lie in what I accomplish. Praise the Lord.


    1. YES. I’d say anything that becomes a source of worth for me (hello, Andrew) or becomes a ruling thing (food) could well be defined as an idol. Sigh… someday I’ll be good at the whole “have no other gods before Me” thing. (In glory, at least.)


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