In today's chaotic world, it's easy to be consumed by external stimulation. Let's face it - you're probably consumed by one such stimulus right now in your very hand. We live in a society where we are constantly "on,”when it is natural to respond to an email from your phone at dinner or take your laptop (instead of your husband) to bed. As new technology is introduced to the world around us, we have more distractions vying for our time. And we have to have it, because the idol of materialism and our own pride and ego is very real.
In "Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life", Tish Harrison Warren talks about the concept of sacrificing basic needs, such as sleep and rest, for worldly idols such as entertainment and work. And trust me, I know how foreign that sounds. How could we possibly think that we idolize work?
In reality, however, it isn't that hard to do if you consider an idol anything that we give excessive attention to throughout our day. That show you binge watch on Netflix? Form of idolatry. That phone in your hand, aimlessly scrolling through leftover Halloween photos on Facebook? Same. So when we forget to put boundaries on our nine-to-fives (or as educators, on our seven-to-nine-at-nights), we need to realize that we are participating in building an altar to our work. If we aren't centered on God and others, we need to re-evaluate where and how we spend our time.
As leaders (whether this be leadership at the office or the leadership parents and adults execute within the home), we must be extremely cautious about what we unconsciously choose to idolize during the day, not just for ourselves, but for those who are watching. If we tell our employees that we value family and family must come first, but we consistently answer phone calls at the dinner table, we aren't living that value in our daily lives. If we preach a good night's sleep and a weekend of rest, yet we respond to emails at 11:30 p.m. and pack our weekends full of errands, shopping and other miscellaneous tasks, we are exacerbating the culture of productivity ourselves. If we don't want our children to spend too much time in front of the television, but we binge watch Grey's Anatomy as we fall asleep each night, what are we valuing? It certainly isn’t God or those around us.
I am often asked as a school leader, “How do you do it all?” And the simple answer is, “I don’t.” Somewhere along the way I had to stop idolizing productivity and give up the very American idea that rest is equated to laziness and simply stop doing and start being. I bought a planner from Sacred Ordinary Days. I now plan my day with three priorities (both personal and professional combined) and I am learning to be realistic about what I want to accomplish each day. Sometimes, my goals might be ambitious: I want to finish a blog post, complete 2 formal observations at work and connect face-to-face with four teachers on campus. Other days, my goals might include a yoga session, have uninterrupted dinner with my husband and go to sleep by 8 p.m. I am learning to meet myself where I am. And when I do that, planning my day with intention, I realize I have plenty of time to linger with God and with those I love the most. And my to-dos? They still get done.
Today, as we commence a month filled with thanksgiving and gratitude, it only seems appropriate to reflect upon that which is consuming our time and competing for the attention of those we love to linger with the most. In order to appropriately reflect, however, we have to participate in the noticing. This means logging how we spend our time today, and identifying any patterns or trends. If you spend three hours catching binging on “The Great British Baking Show”, log it. Instagram scrolling for 20 minutes while your kids play on the floor? Log that, too. And don’t feel ashamed. I think I might have watched 5 episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” last night in between phone calls with my staff. We all have our vices. It’s what we do with them in prayer that matters.
Here are some common forms of idolatry that tend to play out in our modern lives.
Types of Idolatry:
As we embark on this season of simultaneous excess and time with others, it is my hope that we can sort out these forms of modern idolatry in our lives and conscientiously keep our focus on love of God and love of others. In it's most basic form, this intentional focus always seems to take care of the rest.
Linger a Little Longer: