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Better is a handful with quietness than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:6

 

. . . the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work. Exodus 20:18

 

Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 

Modern man takes refuge in anesthetics, and most of all the opiate of work. Toynbee

While the legal profession has its share of problems with alcoholism and drug addictions, the preferred and more seemingly rewarding compulsion is work, or as we sometimes refer to such productive members of the firm: “workaholics.” And they usually are proud of it—it’s a mark of commitment, diligence, professionalism, love for the law, and passion for excellence. It’s indeed a most convenient habit—often praised by partners and clients, and esteemed by those who glorify the “jealous mistress” character of law. But perhaps not so appreciated by spouses and children.

The Biblical patterns for mankind as well as all creation certainly include work—even demanding toil. But from creation, there was also the command to “rest”—for mankind and for creation itself. Real “rest” is a demand of our spirits as well as our bodies. We resist it at our peril.

It’s a seductive temptress—this work-compulsion. Its siren song suggest there is “so much to do.” We just have to “catch-up” before we take a break. Others “need” us.

But what is often going on in our compulsive work is more than just bad planning, unavoidable crises or poor time management. Many observers have suggested there is a fundamental psychological or spiritual aspect to our inability to stop and rest. Toynbee said work was a device man uses to “save him from the solitariness he fears—and his fear is well-founded; for when a man is alone he is really alone least of all: he is then naked in the universe; he is face to face with God. . .”

While an “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”—a saturated, driven one may be just as destructive. The frenetic pace of too much of modern life not only robs us of the “fullness” God has for us, but may in subtle ways be an avoidance on our part—an escape—from God, from others, from self. We stay in control, we manage. If we “rest” then we may become vulnerable.

Some commentators have even noted that our so-called “leisure” today is not really rest, but the substitution of other forms of intense, driven behaviors. It is not RE-CREATION, but further busy-ness. One writer declared modern society’s “leisure” is in fact merely a sign of our slavery, not the time of freedom and renewal it is meant to be in God’s order.

A life with times of quietness, aloneness, and contemplation doesn’t fit well with cell-phones, e-mail, and PDAs. Rest clashes with the clutter in our time and lives. Jacques Maritain caught up the spirit of the age when he observed about Americans: “There is here, it seems to me, a certain horror of any span of time which a man might have at his disposal in order to do nothing.” It was not a compliment.

It is crucial our lives have some very central, prominent non-billable hours—perhaps even “wasted” hours, at least as some might view it. But these hours may shape our lives much more than the ones provided to the accountant. Without them we may indeed be tragically alone.

Many have the courage to work, but lack the courage to be idle. —Charles Peguy

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” —Exodus 33:14

Lynn R. Buzzard

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.

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