Navigating faith, love, and life in the Netherlands

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Personal Value and Sabbath (part 2)

This is part 2 of 2 in a collection of thoughts about work, productivity, personal value, and Sabbath-keeping. Click here to read the previous entry.


Generally I have been dissatisfied with the idea of working all day, in possibly less than ideal conditions, only looking forward to retirement.

Personal Value

In the previously mentioned quote from Shapiro, Americans seem to be compelled to keep working. Dutch people are often also very busy with work and other social engagements.  If you want to make plans for coffee with someone, or even a meal together, you often have to plan 2 weeks in advance! This seems to signify a close connection between productivity at work and one's own personal identity - if you don't work, or aren't busy, you're a nobody.

Do we attach too much value to our work or busyness, seeing it as part of our identity and value?  By this I mean that our success in work (or even getting a particular job) is an integral part of our identity, without which we cannot pause from our work.  If we aren't successful, if we're not working, then who are we?


For about a month and a half this year so far, I avoided doing my seminary homework on Sundays. Yes, I have been taught the Ten Commandments and live in the Netherlands where most stores/businesses (and some websites too!) are completely closed on Sundays, but how else would I finish my homework or get ahead??

I happened to download this free Kindle book a few months ago and had started reading it, per the recommendation of a guest speaker in my Theology of Work class.

24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life explains why and how we should keep the Sabbath. Not to mention: "The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27, The Message)

At first, though, this was hard for me.  I wanted to keep working, to get ahead, so that I would have free time later in the week.  However, within a month or so, I noticed that I felt MORE productive during the week.  I felt so rested early in the week when I returned to my studies - it was a great feeling.  Sadly, within the last couple weeks, I have begun doing my seminary homework over the weekend while everything "snowballs" here at the end of the semester.  Let's just say I'm looking forward to graduation!

What now?

We could all benefit from taking a Sabbath each week.  I could benefit by taking more time for God and not just for myself (or for my academic tasks).  I want to rely more on God and less on my own abilities and ideas.  Today, though I was working on a presentation, I was so glad for the chance to enjoy the sunshine and flowers!

Lekker buiten zitten! 
In a way, as my professor said last spring, I recognize that my work is a form of worship to God - whether that's a teaching job, Dutch lessons, or academic studies.  I want to do these well, and I usually do them well, but my focus needs to turn away from myself and more toward praising God for how God's made me.  Plus, people are more important than tasks.  Admiring nature and beautiful things are more important than my computer screen.

How about you?

Where do you find your identity? What makes you who you are?

When and how do you rest?  How can you put the attention more on God (or others) than on yourself?


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