Our family purchased a chiminea recently–a small, terra cotta fireplace that we thought would be the perfect accessory for a relaxing backyard deck. Sitting in front of a crackling fire in the chill of twilight is, indeed, a wonderful way to unwind. But it takes some work to reach the point of blissfully roasting marshmallows over the hot coals.
The day we purchased the chiminea, our entire family immediately took a drive out to the country to search for dead tree branches we could chop into firewood. My husband and sons worked up a sweat swinging an axe, dragging branches, and picking up sticks, while my daughters and I watched and hiked through the tall grasses nearby. We were outside, engaged in physical labor, and enjoying the company of one another–two things we were created to do from the time of Eden.
“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to culminate and care for it.” Gen. 2:15
“The Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.’” Gen. 2:18
As it says in the Theology of the Body, “the body expresses the person.” (7:2) So, while our souls long to be with others, it is our bodies which must do something to fulfill that longing. When I really crave time with a friend, it isn’t enough just to scan her facebook page. I make a phone call so I can hear her voice, or, even better, I meet her for coffee so I can look into her eyes, see her smile, and give her a hug. When I was away from my older children while in the NICU with a newborn, hearing their voices on the phone brought me to tears because it wasn’t enough. I longed to touch them, cuddle them, and play with them. And when my spouse and I are overwhelmed with love for one another, well, the doing that happens has the potential to create a whole new life!
We often hear that we are human beings, not human doings. We’re too busy. We do too much. We need to spend more time just being.
But what does that mean? How do you just be? Far too often, being translates into doing nothing. Sitting on the couch next to our spouse, zoning out in front of the TV instead of conversing. Putting off that phone call to a friend or neglecting to play with our child because we’ve learned to equate doing with less meaningful, draining work.
And so we feel pulled to turn leisure time into electronic time, escape from the world time, running from the very essence of our humanity time.
But we aren’t just human beings. We are also human doings–we just have to discern what it is that God created us to do.
It is in our work that the secret of being lies. In an ideal world, everyone would have a job that they loved to do–a job filled with purpose and fulfillment, much like Adam and Eve’s original job of cultivating the garden of Eden. But a sly snake changed our world forever, and work took on a whole new meaning from what God originally intended. We can still find a glimmer of Eden in what we do if we put our whole being into it–if we persist in being kind to an eternally grumpy co-worker; if we fold every article of a child’s clothing with the same love and care we give to a scraped knee; if we complete the mundane paperwork with a spirit of obedience and humility.
It is the devil’s eternal quest to create disunity. Disunity from our loved ones, from God, and even from our very selves. Satan wants to convince us that the body was designed for temporal, self-indulgent pleasure alone–that physically taxing work has no inherent value, especially if it satisfies the soul.
And so we will always feel pulled to give in to the temptation of sloth–to put our own desires ahead of connection with a loved one or God’s creation. Yes, sometimes we do need to relax our minds in front of a good movie. Sometimes we need to refresh our spirits so we can continue to give our best to the world.
But there is a balance. We must be ever mindful that our time of rest does not cross the line and become pointless idleness.
I love to sit in my big blue La-Z-Boy all by myself and zone out in front of the TV after a long day of corralling the kids. My body needs the rest and so does my mind. But not for too long every single night. Because true refreshment is found when I place myself in the presence of Jesus in the Adoration chapel. Or allow my fingers to slowly travel over my Rosary beads as I pray. Or frolic with my children in a new carpet of snow. Or feel the warmth of a cozy fire while listening to my husband’s voice telling me about his day.
This is the kind of work we were created to do. And this is the spirit of being we are called to bring to every physical action of our day.