The Gift of Doing Nothing

Healing from a broken arm.

This summer I was given the gift of a broken arm. It was a costly gift, and not one I would have asked for, but it was one that I needed.

By no choice of my own, I was completely unproductive for several weeks. I kicked the habit of endlessly ticking tasks off my mental to-do list, at least for a while.

If you had told me this scenario ahead of time, I would have told you that it sounded awful. And yes, the actual day of the bike accident that broke my arm was pretty awful. But it turns out that being freed from the constant internal pressure to get things done helped me to see how crippling that pressure had been.

People visited me and brightened my days with their simple presence. I had brain space for quiet reflection without a particular goal. 

Christ says that his sheep know his voice. I don’t know what that still small voice tells you, but Christ consistently tells me to relax. That he’s with me. That I’m already worthy and loved.

This taste of a slower pace of life and giving myself permission to just exist sometimes got me wondering . . . what would happen if I stopped valuing myself based on my achievements? What if I stopped evaluating others based on their productivity?

REPERCUSSIONS
I bet we would stop having to make an argument for welcoming people whose lives are in danger by pointing out the value that they add to our economy. It’s true that within 20 years refugees add more to our economy than they’ve “taken,” but isn’t the fact that we have to make that argument, especially to Christian people, a bit backwards?

I wonder if people would stop asking me whether our little church plant is “growing” (by which they mean adding bums in pews) instead of whether we’re a community where the last, the least, and the struggling (that’s all of us) are welcomed into a community of belonging and grace centered on Christ. Why do we have to grow to be worth celebrating?

I wonder if we wouldn’t value the land itself based on its usefulness to us, its perceived slot in our economic system. Did you know that Europeans justified our colonization of the “New World” by saying that since Indigenous peoples weren’t putting the land to “civilized use,” we had a right to take it so that it could be used properly? 

UNDESERVING
Isn’t it crazy how obsessed we are with productivity, when you stop to notice it? God rested before the Fall. Rest is a good thing. Work is also a good thing, but that message is already in my bones, and I’m willing to bet it’s in yours too. Sabbath is a good thing.

The fact that we exist on this earth is pure gift. I did nothing to deserve being born. Nothing to deserve the confluence of situation, gifts and relationships that allow me to work at Open Homes Hamilton. Nothing to deserve continued life because I didn’t hit my head too hard during that bike accident. Life is pure gift.

I hope I can remember that when I’m back to using to-do lists. And I hope you can hear the still small voice that whispers that you are worth it, just as you are. That there’s lots you can do, with the pure gift of your life and abilities that you’ve been given. Work doesn’t change our inherent value. No one has to be productive to be valuable. 

It’s all gift. 

  • Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan is a Host Connector with Open Homes Hamilton, a Christian ministry that supports refugee claimants by offering home-based hospitality in Hamilton, Ontario.

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