I was a workaholic when I got out of nursing school. Sixteen to twenty hour shifts were my favorite - both because I loved working all my waking hours, and because of the awesome bonus pay for "doubling" into the next shift. When you perform well - at work, at church, at school, at sports - people take notice and appreciate you in a way they don't when you aren't performing. It's constant positive feedback for your brain. Now, my busiest days mentally are Tuesdays, when I depart from home for clinical instruction at the hospital at 4:30 a.m. and don't return home until after the last student leaves my other class around 4:30 p.m. On Tuesdays, I don't have to think. I just do. It can be a wonderful break from the mental chaos and constant clamor of depression and anxiety - but it can also be a horrible way to live.
In his excellent book on performance-based Christianity and it's relationship to spiritual abuse, Ken Blue states:
"It is true that God demands much. In fact, His demands are more than we can deliver. The good news is that Jesus meets God's demands fully for us. Saints know that they have failed Christ. Yet Jesus promises rest for all who are weary of trying to please religious leaders. He offers an easy yoke to all those laboring under a load of spiritual performance. If your religion is wearisome and burdensome, God's answer is not a longer quiet time, a firmer commitment or one more trip to the altar. God's solution for spiritual tiredness is rest- rest in the loving acceptance of Jesus" - that you are radically accepted by God through Christ - "and his perfect load-carrying work for you. Once the list of external behaviors is replaced by Jesus' definition of sin, we all fall to the same level of absolute poverty. Abusive spiritual hierarchies [and performance based posturing] are destroyed and we all see our equal need of a savior." (in Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experiences)Over-performance can be a compensation for a peace-less spirit. I know in my case, in those early years of work, it was. Again, as a Christian, I began over-performing to meet the needs of my church, and that wasn't healthy either. Thankfully, I only have those crazy-busy days once a week now, and life feels somewhat more balanced. Yet still, when I am alone with my thoughts sometimes, I crave the way work completely erases my worries. And wonder, still, if it wouldn't be the cure to what ails me.
It is infinitely more difficult to rest in the Lord than it is to show up for the world.