By Rev. Everette Chapman
It goes back to childhood, no doubt, this urge to do something, be active, produce something worthwhile every minute of every day. As my siblings and I were growing up, our father, through economic necessity, and because he believed that an idle mind was the devil’s workshop, made sure that our minds (and our bodies) were busy.
The world of work became the arena for sibling rivalry. The cotton patch, cornfield, crosscut saw, hay baler, and so forth provided opportunities to compete. All of the boys became workaholics. We worked those hours not for any particular pleasure received from the enterprise but because we were seeking our father’s approval. In our family, the unpardonable sin was laziness.
I am happiest when I am working, and I like to stay busy. However, I have a confession to make. When inclement weather or power outages or some other “providential hindrance” makes it impossible or at least inadvisable to go to work, I like it. Since I don’t “choose” to be idle, I don’t feel guilty about it, so I enjoy the “enforced rest”.
It is a disorder and I work on it. I was helped in my quest recently while reading a book that once belonged to my mother. Inside it she had tucked a little poem cut out of a religious magazine. Fifteen years after her death, she still managed to provide some motherly advice. The poem, “I Needed the Quiet,” should be read by all workaholics.
I needed the quiet, so He drew me aside,
Into the shadows where we could confide,
Away from the bustle where all the day long
I hurried and worried when active and strong.
I needed the quiet, though at first I rebelled,
But gently, so gently, my spirit He stilled.
And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things
That, pausing to listen, my spirit took wings.
To heights never dreamed of when active and gay,
He loved me so dearly, He drew me away.
He taught me the worth of reflection and rest;
‘Twas then that I sensed that His way was the best.
I needed the quiet, no prison my bed,
But a beautiful valley of blessing instead –
A place to grow richer, in Jesus to hide.
I needed the quiet, so He drew me aside.
- – Alice Hansche Mortenson
The poem reminds me of a wall plaque one of my Chapel friends gifted to me a few years ago. It is entitled, “Slow Me Down, Lord,” and it makes a lot of sense.
“Slow me down, Lord. Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time. Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills. Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of taking minute vacations – of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book. Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values so that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
My best thoughts to you who may be “driven”. Take the day off, put your feet up, read a good book. This can be your “off” day.
Rev. Everette Chapman is pastor of Fairfield Mountains Chapel, Lake Lure. His new book, “Gentle Mountain Breezes”, a collection of articles from his Mountain Breeze column since the late 1980’s to the present time, is available by contacting Fairfield Mountains Chapel.