Practicing Parents

Being Productive

candle

On Tuesday of this week I found myself with an unscheduled day. Necessary errands and pressing work-related tasks had been done on Monday. Heck, the driveway and front walk were even shoveled and the dusting of additional snow didn’t seem to merit my schlepping out into sub-zero temps to clean everything off once again. As the kids got off to school and the hubby left for work, I decided that if I really didn’t have to, I was not going to leave the house that day. I was going to spend my time in quiet and solitude.

A whole day alone with no one else in the house? Doesn’t the thought of it elicit a little bit of giddiness in the hearts of parents everywhere?

We love our kids and as parents we embrace the noise and the chaos that accompanies family life, but “peace” and “quiet” are such attractive words when the house is loud and crazy. The dog is barking and the kids are arguing and the junk pile that you swear you just cleaned off of the kitchen counter has found its way back again. The dishes are still dirty in the sink because the dishwasher is broken and, darn-it, the drying rack is still full and so maybe if you just stack them all neatly in the sink it will give the illusion of clean. It’s 5:00 and shoot you have no idea what to make for dinner and where’s a frozen pizza when you really need one! And, “Oh by the way Mom, I have a project due tomorrow”, and, “Mom can I pull out my “Disgusting Science Kit” and do some disgusting science” RIGHT NOW, at 5:00 when there’s no dinner in sight and every dish is dirty and we have to be at Boy Scouts in 45 minutes?…..or maybe that’s just at my house….but you know those crazy, loud, hair-on-fire days when everyone is rushed and everything is falling apart and all you want is to STOP. And be still. And quiet. And alone.

But here’s the kicker: when we do finally get one of those glorious days, or a few precious hours to just be still, it’s hard to stop, isn’t it?

We tend to equate being productive with being busy, and being still with being lazy. If we take a day and use it to sit in silence and watch the snow fall and pray and read and just…be…we’re apt to say that we “got nothing done today”.

And yet, being silent before God — stepping away from the world and being alone with God — is arguably the most productive work we can do. It’s the work of drawing near. The work of opening our eyes and taking the time to see. The work of opening our ears and tuning in to listen. The work of opening our hands to receive. The work of opening our hearts and simply being present to God. The work of allowing God to go to work in us.

There is at once something so attractive and elusive about that kind of productivity. At least that’s what my actions say. Because before stepping foot into my favorite quiet spot on the living room couch Tuesday, I decided that first I needed another cup of coffee. And that I may as well check my email while I’m drinking it. And oh, let’s just hop on Facebook for a minute. And, ooh that article on BuzzFeed looks interesting. And, hmm, I wonder if there’s snow in the forecast for tomorrow. And maybe while I’m on here I should just pay that bill. And while it’s on my mind I should take the meat out of the freezer for dinner tonight. And an hour later…

Is it just me, or do you sometimes resist the quiet too? I know that once I finally close the computer or drop the laundry basket or close the book or put the to-do list aside, and sit my rear in my favorite spot and STOP, I’ll be so glad that I did.

Fortunately, the One who comes to us in the silence is always there waiting for our weary soul to finally let go of its tight grip on the busy-ness of the world and just stop. Our ever-present God is waiting to silence all the chatter that seeks to fill up those empty places, and give us rest.

Once I finally do find my way to the feet of Jesus, I always marvel at how it took me so long to get there. And then I don’t want to leave! I shouldn’t be surprised. That is, after all, the purpose of our lives — to come to the feet of Jesus. And never leave. Stay there. Dwell there. Live from there. Work from there. Parent our kids from there. Love our spouses from there.

As parents, we have the high calling and privilege of getting to show our kids a way to live in the world that is different from the ways that the world will tell them to live. A way of living that invites God to reorient our lives and reframe our idea of what a “productive” life looks like, so that the quality of our days are measured not by the number of items checked off of a to-do list, but the ways in which we seek to abide in the One who numbers every hair on our heads. This is the greatest gift we can give our children.

When everyone came home from school and work that day, and the house was filled once again with the voices and noises and activity that makes our house a home, I found myself filled with a deeper gratitude for my precious family, able to enter into the blessed chaos and the undeniable mess, with renewed energy, perspective, and patience.

It was the most productive day I’d had in a long time.

Kelly Pittman shares life and ministry with her husband, two young children, and a wonderful church family, in Southeastern Michigan.

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