“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.