Everybody gets sick of school in those last, stressful, project-packed weeks of the semester. As April sped into May, and as finals week approached, I found myself daydreaming about what I would do with my endless free time once summer began. I’d give our apartment a clean-sweep and get super organized; I’d cook fabulous meals and pastries for my husband; I’d make plans and preparations for my Editor-in-Chief job starting next fall; I’d even get a head start on my thesis by spending a few productive hours each week in the library, now with new energy after sleeping more than six hours a night.
Every summer, I make extravagant plans for myself. And every summer, without fail, the long, lazy summer days drift by without me accomplishing any of them. Why does this always happen?
I feel like there must be a psychological reason for this. It makes sense that after spending three months thinking and writing and churning out assignments all I want to do is sleep in and watch Parks and Recreation. We’re all familiar with “burn out”, whether from university life or a demanding job. Humans are limited creatures, and the mind and body can only perform the same task in the same capacity for so long.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself stressing out about things on my to-do list, even when I’m trying to relax, which makes relaxation time fruitless. I want to be productive, but my constant, simmering anxiety has revealed something deeper about my motivations and desires. This is more than an issue of time management and discipline. I’m beginning to realize that my inner unrest may be the result of spiritual malnutrition.
Just like my lifelong struggle to keep my laundry under control, I’ve always struggled with matters of spiritual discipline: prayer, scripture reading, and simply making time in my everyday routine to commune with God. I believe that I am always in the Lord’s presence, because I believe Christ has given me his Holy Spirit as he promises in the Gospel. But my heart has grown heavy, and my soul longs for refreshment.
Instead of worrying about deadlines, lists and projects, I’m going to try and get my priorities straight. I’ve come to learn that I seek satisfaction and fulfillment in accomplishing tasks and in getting praise from my professors, my peers, and myself. I think my seemingly inescapable anxiety about “stuff I have to do” stems from a false belief that if I get everything done, and get it done on time, and do it well, then I’ll be happy. Of course, there’s nothing wrong doing a good job on someting, but in a weird way, I’ve come to worship the to-do list (which is even weirder when you consider the fact that I’m the one creating it). I’m a slave to my lists; if things are left undone at the end of the day, I feel like a failure: not good enough, must try harder tomorrow, must do more. I measure my self-worth based on what I can do, not based on what God has done for me.
I began this post thinking about how I can be more productive. I’m ending with a new goal, something to put at the very top of my to-do list: get right with God. Everything else will fall into place. (I will also pray for faith that this is, in fact, true, since I’m so used to believing I’m the only one who can make sure my life is a success).
Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:31-33