welcoming death, anticipating life

February 20, 2010 | 3 Comments

I like to feel productive.

Sometimes that means I actually am productive. Often, it means that I do things to feel like I’m accomplishing something.

For Lent this year, I’m giving up productivity.

Not all of it. But I am aware of how much l need to think about what’s next, to not waste a single moment. One of the places this is evident is in the car. I almost always have a podcast or audiobook going. At stop lights, I’m often taking a peek at email or twitter. It means one less podcast to listen to, one less thing to read when I’m at my desk. It feels like progress.

Last week, I introduced the meaning of Lent at our Austin Mustard Seed gathering. At the core of Lent is a dwelling on death. It is a season of denying ourselves, reflecting on the cross, all the while building up an anticipation of resurrection.

Whether you practice Lent or not, whether you are a Christian or not, there is something to be said for giving up one thing so that we can gain another. As we talked in our gathering, I decided that I should spend my car time in silence.

I don’t spend a lot of time in the car. But I’m certain that a few moments of silence, of reflection, of prayer, of simply being present, will be of greater value than any podcast, tweet, or email. Not a grand sacrifice to be sure, but my dread of it tells me that my need to be productive has a hold on me.

Previously, my recognition of Lent has been an entire season of denial — letting go of something so that I could look forward to having it again. It’s not a bad way to practice Lent, I suppose. But this year, I hope that every moment in the car will offer life coming out of death. I’m praying that moments of life, of being present with myself and with God, will emerge from the daily denial and death of production.

  • Great thoughts John, I decided to give up facebook and twitter for Lent, among some other things. I, too, have the idea of accomplishing something all the time. Your post challenged me to think about the “myth of productivity.” In those moments I am completing something, am I really gaining anything that will change or possibly even sustain me. I think peace and reflection will usually provide much of the knowledge I would have hoped to have gained from other sources. I always enjoy your take on things.

  • Thanks Chad…glad it’s helpful to you as well. I guess it all comes down to the fact that I easily remember to do, but often forget to be.

  • After losing my father-in-law in late December, my wife and I have been busy helping my mother-in-law move from her rented house into an apartment. In the process, I’ve had to move more “stuff” around than I ever care to move again. Often, I’ve had to move it multiple times (house-to-garage, garage-to-driveway, driveway-to-garage, etc).

    Starting this weekend, I’ve decided to die to many of the things I’ve been clinging to – memory boxes, books I’ve read and think I’ll read again, etc. My guess – I’ll be sad but not miss it in another two weeks or so. In the process, I hope to leave a better legacy for my family should something happen to me sooner than later. I want to leave a legacy that lasts for my wife and kids, not a bunch of stuff they have to move around time and again.

    All this to say that while what I’m going through isn’t based on Lent, it is much the same desire – to die to self by removing things in my life in an effort to make room for other things.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!