One of the greatest tragedies of our time is the large number of those who are out of work. Yet the other side of that sad social reality provides us with a paradoxical truth. For a great number of people, the tragedy of our age is being over-employed! Our lives are so busy, so constantly occupied, that we have no time left to visit our friends, write letters and enjoy simple life.
Having a lifework is an essential ingredient for happiness and for a healthy self-image. We all need meaningful employment, and a truly Christian society strives to make this possible for every person. But since World War II people in our society have become over-employed in increasing numbers.
The word employ originally meant to enfold or involve. It seems today that we all tend to be too involved! We are enfolded in so many activities and commitments that we lack time — not only for leisure but also for prayer, that essential element in our spiritual lives. We have precious little time for prayer, feasting and friendship or for all the other gracious necessities of living a truly human way.
While it is normal for workers to have one employer, what do we say of a culture where large numbers of people have several employers? While they are many, they all have the same family name: Should. We should: mow the lawn, keep the house spotless, attend every meeting, be present for this or that… We need the courage to retire from as many as possible of the Mr. and MRs. Shoulds for whom we work. Examine your life and see which of these various taskmasters you can do without so that you can enjoy some of the blessings of unemployment. Only when our lives have a proper balance of meaningful employment and meaningful unemployment can our basic lifework nourish us and become part of the redemptive work of Jesus.
Be pre-warned, however, that attempting to retire from the employment of the Shoulds will not be an easy task. You will be given a long list of reasons why you must continue to work for them. But any effort to quit, no matter how small, brings some of the blessings of being meaningfully unemployed. Set your heart on the old-fashioned joys of being temporarily unemployed for an hour or two each day, and perhaps you will find a greater natural rhythm overflowing into every area of your life, and greater harmony with the rhythm of God.Edward Hays