Permission to Do Nothing – Granted!

It’s been a long month — storyteller’s workshop, worship conference, video testimonies, worship projects, barbershop concerts, drama rehersals. Not a lot of free time for writing as I would like. Finally got a free night this past Sunday. Resolved to spend the evening doing as little as possible. Roberta planned on reading a book, I was going to relax with some great jazz music. Then it hit — guilt!

Even as we settled down for the evening we hadn’t gone very far when both my wife and I felt it. We were actually planning to do nothing! We were about to commit the sin of being unproductive. How could we think of such a thing? More than once Roberta looked up from her book and said, “There are things I should be doing. I shouldn’t be just sitting here. (long pause) But it’s all I want to do!”

I knew how she felt. I had to remind both myself and her that that not only is doing nothing NOT a sin, it is a command of God! It would seem that God knew his creation would fall prey to the insatiable drive to ‘do something’, and so he commanded one day’s rest in seven to address the need for rest. For the record, even two thousand years ago, in the time of Jesus, this was considered a little strange. Many people regarded the Jews as lazy and irresponsible because they took a whole day off every week.

What I have always wondered however, is why we have this overwhelming drive to be busy in the first place? Why do we get so fidgety and restless when we do nothing? Why is the same level of inactivity that is acceptable lying on the beach, so unacceptable in our own living rooms?

I have a theory.

I think we all suffer, to one degree or another, from the tryanny of our own attention span.

That’s right – the tyranny of our own attention span. The same hightened sense of boredom that has us flipping channels, also keeps us from slowing down and just enjoying the moment. And in a world dominated by the 10-second sound byte, the video montage, and the one-minute news update, the situation has become even worse. There are many people today that are simply incapable of paying attention to anything for any length of time.

The result is we have trouble simply enjoying the moment. When we do spend a few moments resting, doing nothing, before long a little voice in our head says, “Okay, been here, done this. What’s next? Come on people – I’ve seen this movie before. Show me something new.”

Of course on the spiritual level there’s another aspect to it as well — fear.

I have come to the realization that some of us are reluctant to stop
doing because when our minds are not filled with these activities then we might be tempted to “think“. And this is bad because thinking can lead to contemplation. And contemplation can lead to introspection. And introspection can lead to having to face some hard realities about ourselves, and nobody wants to do that. And so because of our fear of facing who we really are, we occupy our time with as many activities as possible so that we don’t have time to think about how good or bad a person we might be.

Of course, on the spiritual level, this is all very good for the enemy. Satan of course has no desire to see God’s people spending a lot of time in quiet contemplation because they just might be quiet long enough to hear the still small voice of God. They might, even without intending or planning to, take head of the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit; and we all know what that could lead to.

So here’s my challenge to you. Take a few minutes, or dare I say it, one day a week, and strive to do nothing. You just might find it’s the most productive thing you’ve ever done.


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