In the car this morning, I heard on the news that one of the candidates for the French presidency has the elimination of all homework as part of his platform. When I first heard that, I thought it was ridiculous, but then they explained: he feels strongly that even at a young age, children need to get in the habit of separating work (at that age, school) from home. They need to learn to separate the two. They need to have a SCHOOL life and a HOME life, and they need to be kept separate.
Listening to that explanation, I found myself nodding emphatically as I drove. While I realize the importance of learning to work independently and of practice in mastering new skills, and the opportunity for both of those that homework provides, I think there’s something to that idea. I haven’t reached the age of nightly homework battles with my daughter, but I remember well the effect of homework on my psyche when I was younger. I remember my evenings being dominated by homework, especially as I got into high school. Weekends, even, were spent at least in part hovering over my textbooks and binders, highlighter in hand and study music playing softly in the background. Granted, I was an extremely conscientious student (to a fault), but as I consider the claims of the random French politician this morning, I realize that I might have been taught more than algorithms and American history during those hours-long study sessions.
I might have actually learned that every part of my life should be dominated by work.
I might have learned that family time – home time – down time – is not as important as busy work.
I might have subconsciously been absorbing lessons that my own well-being is not as important as what someone else wants me to be doing.
I might have become convinced that it’s just not okay to take some time for myself. I might have learned that it’s highly preferable – and even expected – that I have no boundaries protecting myself from all the things of the world that want to encroach on my life and my time.
True, I’ve never considered this before, so there may be no bearing to it whatsoever. Even if homework did not convey these points to me, it’s clear that something did. Something, likely, still does. Why else would I randomly jump up from doing a puzzle with my daughter to start a load of laundry? Why else would I stay inside washing dishes every evening as my husband and daughter play “bouncy ball” in the garage after supper? Why else would I feel guilty for watching 30 minutes of TV after washing said dishes, putting my daughter to bed, working out, cleaning up, and finishing up a blog post?
Clearly, somehow I’ve learned that it’s preferable to be busy, busy, busy than to just BE.
And yes, there is some merit to busy-ness. In no way am I advocating pure laziness. What I AM saying is that balanced living is rendered impossible when we have no boundaries. We will forever be IMbalanced – feeling pulled in a million directions and never being fully present in anything we’re doing – if we don’t intentionally set aside time to NOT work.
I believe there’s a word for it….what is it? Let’s see….I think I remember…
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
I know human nature. I know how many of you are thinking and feeling right now. Some of you are saying, “YES! I need SABBATH! I’m doing to DO this! I’m starting this habit TODAY!” And even as you’re saying that, you’re probably thinking about the last time you attempted to implement this practice…and failed. Others of you are nodding in agreement, realizing how badly you need this…but you don’t see any way to make it happen.
Friends, if we want to live the balanced lives God intended us to live, I believe that rest – this concept of Sabbath – is imperative. Not only does it recharge our bodies for the rest of the time when we must work, but it reminds us of our proper place in this crazy world.
“For one day a week, you let the world be as it is. And you be in it, and try not to dominate it.” (Judith Shulevitz, author of The Sabbath World, in an interview on NPR)
This need for rest is not just a matter of physical and mental health, though that is certainly true. God made us. He knows what we need, and He commanded that we rest. He did not suggest it. He commanded it. This is a spiritual matter, too, though. God knows our nature – that hustle-bustle nature that keeps us working even once we have nothing more we have to do. He knows that underneath the busy-ness, we’re really trying to control our world.
But y’all, is control over our world really what we want? Or do we want to give it all up? We cannot have both, and we were only created for one.
We are not God. If we want to be balanced, we have to accept that. The world sill go on spinning even without our labors, and the sun will come up tomorrow for another day of work. God will make sure of it, for He never slumbers or sleeps.