Over Christmas break, I watched her constantly working. Despite the holidays, she would get up at 5:30 in the morning and was working constantly until 8 pm. At that point, she collapsed onto the couch next to me, maybe making it through an episode of “The Man in the High Castle,” and then going up to bed right after.
After a few days of this, I saw an opportunity for us to just sit together and enjoy each other’s company. Her response was “I need to dust upstairs.” Now, I’m sure there are some dust bunnies hiding in the crevices, but overall our house is fairly clean, and certainly dusting wasn’t on the priority list. So I asked her to nix that. She looked stressed, which I didn’t get. I mean, I just STOPPED her from doing work so we could relax together. How is that not…relaxing?
My wife’s reply was telling. “If I’m not working, I feel lazy. But if I work all day, I’m exhausted and tired.”
A catch-22 if I ever saw one, exacerbated, I think, by social media.
Social media has done great things to connect people. One big problem is that it is only a snapshot in time. For every cute baby picture there are a thousand moments of baby’s crying, screaming, puking and otherwise doing things you DON’T post on Facebook.
Every parent of multiple children knows this. Every new parent that grew up with social media does not. We mistakenly view our friends social media as the truth and compare ourselves to this ideal constantly, despite knowing that not everything on the internet is true. It isn’t helping us one bit.
The other brutal truth is that work is not the same as having purpose. We continue to tell ourselves that if we just made enough money, or had a nicer house, or did a bit more to discipline our kids, or whatever, then we would be happy. And yet, we can spend our entire lives working hard and never get any happier, even if our income rises.
So we get stuck in a nasty loop. We’re told that our success is measured by having the perfect kids, perfect house, perfect job, etc. And yet, none of us do, and what’s worse, we see others that we think “have it all.” So we work harder, driving ourselves further into the negative reinforcement loop. Are we surprised that Facebook makes us sad?
This isn’t new, in fact, it’s as old as the Bible:
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” – LUKE 10: 38-42
We can get purpose out of work, but that requires placing work as an offering to God, as a way to find meaning. We short circuit this when we use work to elevate ourselves over others. We get into a comparison war, even if it’s only in our heads, and we always wind up as the loser.
Martha vocalized her comparison war. Jesus reminded Martha that work is no substitute for purpose. We all likely need this reminder more often than not.