Being to Do

(Chatter Letter from the Editor: July). I have a hard time relaxing. Maybe it’s all that pent-up angst about the season finale of “Smash,” or my steady Diet Coke drip. It could be that I have not taken a weeklong vacation in eight years (does your honeymoon really count?), or that the grime on my home’s surfaces is more vocal than Fran Drescher. And if you remember who Fran Drescher is, then you probably can’t relax either.

This year, we are finally taking a weeklong vacation sans kiddos. You will hate me when I tell you we are going to Italy. I plan on eating just as many carbohydrates as I can cram down what with all the Diet Coke, and intend to walk off 48,000 calories a day in a stunning pair of Pumas. I don’t think we’ll be doing much relaxing because when you travel to Italy, you have a humanitarian duty to take in all the sights, smells, and I would add “leather,” as you possibly can. It’s really the perfect vacation for an American who regards busy-ness as next to holiness — a non-vacation vacation, which we all know is a little less depraved, a little more like the vacation Christ would have taken.

When I picture Jesus, I think of a man with dirt under his toenails and calluses on his heels. A man whose head hit the pillow every night like an anvil, who went from place to place , healing people and forgiving sins. Which is, of course, what he did. If you’ve been following along with our Sunday series “Come Follow Me,” then you can certainly concur that Jesus’ life was a connect-the-dots marathon. Even when he tries to get some R and R with his disciples in chapter 6, the relentless crowds follow him, and he compassionately capitulates, feeding 5,000 of them like the owner of a spiritual — and physical — food truck.

He had three years. He was going to make them count.

Some of this productivity addiction for me stems from a question that we are all asked as children: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I want to be a mom. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a philanthropist with an unquestionably valid mustache.
If we started asking instead, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” we might help a tiny little bit more to establish the difference between being and doing that so many of us lack. We do to be, instead of being to do. Jesus was, and then he did. It’s all backwards.

So, who am I today? What’s swirling inside and spilling up over the top? Am I identifying myself with Jesus, who lived at the crest of a God-blown tidal wave, or am I living the heck out of my own life, trying to derive meaning from my iCal and Facebook notifications? What will it take to pull me into real life?

Not another sweep of the broom, that’s for sure. It might just be something ordinary yet transcendent, like a nap or a walk or a deep breath — something that hints at the constancy of heaven and the faithfulness of our Savior who doesn’t make us do anything to earn legitimacy — even if it means being one of the faceless, helpless, hungry, 5,000 followers on a remote hillside. After all, it’s better to be fed by Jesus than to be nothing more than a busybody, running around seeing and being seen, distributing chunks of bread, collecting leftovers and planning for contingencies — how Judas must have spent that day. I guess what it boils down to is that it’s better to be full than fussy.

Which reminds me why Italy is such a wonderful idea.

– Julie

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