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Getting Off The Treadmill

My life can get pretty over-scheduled. From the moment I wake up until late in the evening, many days it seems that there’s no real end to my personal work treadmill. If I’m lucky, there are at least pauses along the way for me to catch my breath.

This has become the new normal. Many of us live at 110%, constantly connected to work through smartphones and computers. The line between personal life and work has become blurred beyond the point of recognition. Just getting through the day without going totally crazy can seem like a real accomplishment.

As if this weren’t enough, Holy Spirit calls us to serve our neighbors in ways that stretch us and take us outside of our comfort zones. Loving Jesus means demonstrating his love for people – often people who, quite frankly, wouldn’t be my first pick if I were doing the choosing.

Living into this calling is hard enough when I’m fully rested and have a lot of time on my hands, much less at the end of a long day at work when all I want to do is go home, eat some ice cream and watch Netflix. After spending my day at 110%, where can I find the strength and energy to linger at the fence, talking to my next door neighbor? Where do I find the motivation to invite co-workers out to dinner, or to mentor someone in their walk with Christ? What could motivate me to sacrifice my precious me time and instead focus on the needs of others?

In my own life, I’m discovering that if I really want to follow Jesus, I may have to reevaluate my 110% lifestyle. When I am so keyed into the very important things that I am up to, it is hard for me to switch gears and stay open to the unexpected opportunities that the Holy Spirit offers throughout the week. The wind doesn’t blow through a house with closed windows; in the same way, I have a much harder time experiencing and responding to the movement of the Holy Spirit when my life is completely locked down with a full agenda of pre-determined commitments and projects.

How can I leave space in my life for those unscheduled moments of connection and service? What would it look like if I lived my life at, say, 80%? What kind of changes might start to happen my life if I was more intentional about leaving an open space for the Holy Spirit to move and play? This might involve making less money, slowing down my career. It’s not called sacrifice for nothing!

But I wonder, what kind of joy might I experience if I began to step off of the accomplishment treadmill? What relief might I find in leaving space for God to order my days, rather than the demands of all my self-driven projects? How might it feel to re-focus my life around human relationships, caring for others who are struggling just like I am?

  • Anne Haehl

    There is a wonderful book by Sue Bender about the need for space–her image is an empty bowl. I am reminded of the verse in Colossians, which is translated “May the peace of God rule in your hearts” (may not be word for word). But the word “rule” is based on the image of a referee–so it’s deciding between various goods. Let us try to pay attention to making space for God, and see what happens. (Note: what happened today is my sister called and needs help getting dental care she desperately needs. So much for quiet time. “



  • sgl

    In 1973, John Darley and Daniel Batson published one of the most famous papers looking into helping behavior. The study was entitled From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior.

    The Jerusalem to Jericho study was effectively a modern-day reenactment of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

    The study involved seminarians preparing for the ministry. The seminarians
    were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group was asked
    to prepare a sermon on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The second
    group prepared a sermon on a non-helping subject. The seminarians were
    then scheduled to deliver this sermon at an appointed time and place.

    Upon arriving at the designated place the seminarians were told that the
    location of the sermon had been changed at the last minute and that they
    were to go to a new location. At this point the seminarians were
    randomly assigned again, this time into three groups. A third of the
    seminarians were put under strong time pressure, told that they needed
    to get to the new venue in a hurry (the high hurry condition). The
    second third was put under moderate time pressure (the intermediate
    hurry condition). And finally, the final third was told that they could
    take their time getting to the new venue (the low hurry condition).
    After this hurry manipulation the seminarians were pointed to the exit
    and directed to proceed to the next venue.

    Along the route (an alleyway) to the next venue Darley and Batson had placed a person who showed signs of distress. Specifically, they were sitting slumped against the wall, head down and eyes closed. As the subject passed, the confederate would cough twice and groan. Basically, they showed signs of abdominal pain. As the seminarians passed the key variable was recorded: Would they stop to check on the groaning person?

    In short, what we have is a controlled simulation of Jesus’s parable. We
    even have seminarians standing in for the priest and Levite.[….]

    Overall, the results revealed that the single biggest factor in helping was the
    hurry manipulation. The relevant statistic from the study was (% who
    * The Low Hurry Condition: 63% offered aid
    * The High Hurry Condition: 10% offered aid

    And, incidentally, some seminarians in the high hurry condition literally stepped over the groaning person on the way to deliver their sermon on
    the Good Samaritan.