Christian, Jewish, or not, two stories from the Bible stand out as particularly important. The first story is the Creation account. Breaking creation into six Days, God created man and woman, then set as their first mission to rest on the seventh day. A core tenant of the Jewish faith revolves around the concept of resting one day a week.
Do You Know Your Name?Interestingly, from this moment on in the Bible, a theme develops around the word “name.” Israel fights to discover (and rediscover) their identity/purpose/name, and the fight appears to be exacerbated by the inability to keep this day of rest, the Sabbath. Rest and identity seem to have an intimate relationship with one another in Jewish history.
The second story finds its epicenter in Egypt. Israel has found itself slaves to a powerful kingdom. A rather unsuspecting Israelite is called to release Israel from captivity, but his first attempts appear to make matters worse. To prevent an uprising, Pharaoh increases the workload of the Israelites, preventing them from remembering who they are. The tactic works as many of the Israelites question whether it would be better to be comfortable slaves than to face the unknown consequences of being free in a burning desert.
The Pharaoh WithinToday, Egypt’s Pharaohs pose no threat to our freedom yet a pharaoh still remains, enslaving us from our greatest possibilities. The pharaoh of our own heart is constantly increasing our workload with empty activities, disguising it as meaningful work. The mind is tricked into thinking that our ceaseless borage of activity is nourishing our soul.
In the end, we exchange fulfillment for numbness, empathy for apathy, peace for paralysis, and the drawn life for the driven life. The busyness we experience convinces us that the deepest and darkest questions of life are not relevant for our happiness: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life? Why something rather than nothing?
Recreating and WorkingMonths and years later we find ourselves agitated and unfulfilled, wondering how we got here and why we feel this way. After all, we did what we were suppose to do: work! Like the story of Israel’s slavery to Egypt, we put the proverbial chariot before the horse. Identity is not bestowed by our work but only strengthened. It is in the burning desert of being rather than doing that we find ourselves. We do not work so that we can have luxurious rest, but we rest so that we can work. Work is meant to be a fruit of recreation (coming from a time of being “re-created”), not the other way around.
Know ThyselfIf we really want to know ourselves, to discover personal purpose and meaning, it begins with setting time out each day for solitude. I’m convinced now more than ever that before the sun, important things get done. These important things are prayer/meditation, journaling, reading, and exercising.
Do not start the day working on email, checking your todo list, or engaging social media. Rather, begin each morning entering into that desert of oneself, for it is precisely in this desert of being that we discover the well-spring of life, and it is through these “living waters” that we are able to find energy, courage, ambition, and purpose for our day and even life.
It is in the “work” of being that we discover our greatest possibilities, and are given the greatest resources in making these possibilities a reality: self-knowledge, self-understanding, self-acceptance, self-confidence, and self-gift.
”Be” GreatlyIf we want to live greatly, we must first dare to “be” greatly. To this end, I propose spending at least 20% of each waking day pursuing re-creating activities. This means that if you get up at 6am everyday, and go to sleep at 10pm, you would be spending 3.2 hours in a state of “recreation” each and every day.
What constitutes recreational activity? I can tell you what does not: useless screen time. Studies have shown that after about 60 minutes of TV, the brain hits saturation point, and it begins to get agitated. Have you ever started watching TV to decompress, only to realize hours later that you feel less refreshed than when you began? There is an inversely proportionate relationship between the time we spend gazing passively at a screen and the clarity of purpose and meaning in life.
Types of life-giving recreational activity may include:
- Playing a Musical Instrument
- Making Art
Begin today! Before the week begins, map out your time for solitude in your calendar and block that time out. Have a separate “list” unrelated to your todo list which consists of your “re-creating” activities for the week. Guard this time with absolute vigilance. The joy of clarity of purpose and meaning await you!