Each day is a rush from beginning to end for many people. Scarf down breakfast, run to catch a bus, work all day, pick up the children from school, clean the house, mow the lawn, edit homework late into the night – most of us can barely fit everything that needs to be done into a 24-hour span.
We might believe that we can accomplish all of this and more in our lives. After all, sloth is regarded by the Catholic Church as one of the seven deadly sins. Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” One could take this to mean that God wants us to be busy constantly, striving to do His will and bring about His glory on earth.
Yet, this verse can be misconstrued. Proverbs does not state “Work all the time like the ant” or even “Be as busy as the ant.” Instead, the Scripture clearly says to “be wise” regarding the use of time. Also, sloth does not mean simple laziness. According to New Advent, sloth is “the don’t-care feeling” that St. Thomas later expanded as being “formally distressed at the prospect of what he must do for God to bring about or keep intact his friendship with God. In this sense sloth is directly opposed to charity.” Therefore, we should be careful before labeling resting as slothful or sinful.
Sometimes it is the rushing about that is more of a sin. Too often our hurrying is not motivated by following God’s direction, but striving to fulfill our own desires. Pride of being so important, longing to be respected, fear of having a reputation as lazy, and a warped desire to control life all cause people to pack their days full. Unfortunately, this business often leaves out time for simply being and sitting with God.
Think back to the story of Mary and Martha. The one sister, Martha, scurried about the house in an attempt to ready everything for Jesus. Mary, on the other hand, sat at our Lord’s feet and listened to His words. When the harried woman commented on her sibling’s lack of work, Jesus responded by saying, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
How strange it seems that God would correct the person who was working hard to serve Him! Instead, Christ commends the one that just sits in His presence. That is all we know that Mary does. She stays, basks, rests in the presence of her Lord. In this, she must have found divine respite and peace.
As a senior university student with several jobs, daily blogging, theater, honor societies, and other groups, I rarely find time to relax in the comforting presence of God. Instead, my days are spent running from one place to another, trying to accomplish my ever-expanding list of tasks. Instead of getting shorter, this to-do list only grows. By early morning, my spirit is already drained and my body longs for sleep.
With our busy lives that mirror how society shows us to live, we must find time to stop and just be. The art of being in the moment and just experiencing that time might sound like a strange new-age concept, however, that does not need to be the case. As Catholics, we should not only think ahead to heaven with joy and back to past to gain wisdom but also remain in the present with thankfulness for each moment. In “An Attitude of Prayer: Being Present” from Catholic Web, it states that “prayer is a time to BE PRESENT.”
What does it mean to stop and just be with God in the present? For each person, the process might look a bit different. Here are a few ways that I have found helpful in my own life or observed in the lives of other Catholics.
- Experience the world with your senses. Smell the crisp autumn air; stand with the sunshine on your back; close your eyes and just chew your food slowly. During each of these events, praise God for his creation and the world that he created for us.
- Take a walk. Being in nature is the way that I can rest with God the easiest. Combining this with using my senses makes it even better.
- Read the Bible and journal. Try not to put a time limit on this. By pouring out your heart while exploring His word, you are becoming like Mary sitting at His feet.
- Turn off the lights and sit in darkness. Taking away stimuli helps me to feel closer to God. Instead of being distracted, I find myself melting into His arms as He renews my strength.
- Swim, run, or do another athletic activity. Even while being active, you can have a type of relaxation with the Lord.
My goal currently is to take time to just be with God at least once a day. I will fall short of this, but that does not mean I cannot keep aiming for this divine rest. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, we cannot last without these moments of God’s renewing energy and peace. We all need to relax and open ourselves up to just being. No rushing or task lists – God alone can grant us strength to get through our hectic lives.