By Jim Tune
I heard about a pastor who took a day off. He set his e-mail to respond automatically with this message: “I’m out of the office today. I’ll respond to your e-mail upon my return.” When he returned to work, he found this e-mail:
“Don’t bother. You’re a loser for taking a day off. People will probably die and go to Hell because you thought you needed a day off. Do you think God takes a day off? Are you better than God?”
Of course, the e-mail was a joke. The man who wrote that e-mail is a recovering workaholic who knows better. He learned the hard way.
I’m concerned about how much we’re working. Statistics show we’re working longer hours and we’re chained to our smartphones. I keep meeting people who give me blank looks when I ask if they take a day off. I believe in hard work, but hard work demands rest.
Why? Because we are dust. There’s a new book titled Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash. It’s written for pastors but applies to everyone. It reminds us we are fragile. When God chose us, he knew what he was getting. Ash writes, “We offer him the fragile, temporary, mortal, frail life that he has first given to us. That is all we have to offer. God knows that. God is under no illusions about who he is getting on his team.”
This means that we have needs. We need sleep. We need friends. We need renewal. We need Sabbath rests. “God needs no day off,” the book explains. “But I am not God, and I do.”
We all need time off. We regularly need to put the smartphone away, turn the computer off, and forget about the to-do list, and then play. Not only is it essential, but I’m convinced we get more done when we take time off.
We also need vacations. Studies show vacations improve brainpower, reduce the risk of disease, enhance performance, and improve mental health. Everyone—including our employers—will benefit if we take a vacation when we need it.
Why do we struggle to take time off? It’s probably because it’s so hard to accept that we have limits. I have a hard time accepting that I’m fragile, weak, and temporary. It sounds funny, but it’s almost like I wonder what God and the world will do without me. It sounds a little like the original temptation: “You will be like God. . . .” It’s a refusal to accept our limits and an attempt to be more than we are.
So I just may activate my e-mail auto-responder soon. I’ll turn the smartphone off and close the laptop. I’ll find something that gives me joy and forget about all the work I have to do. My life, my marriage, and my work will be better for it.