Last week, I wrote a rather lengthy post about being too busy. It was probably too long. Okay, it was. I have a tendency to write a lot. I’m working on it. Hey, I’ve managed to reduce my sermon time by about 15-20 minutes. When I shared that post with our church, there was some great feedback from one our church members. Enough so, I thought it warranted a part 2.

Last week, I talked about how technology has added a lot of this pressure, simply by means of visibility. We can see a lot more than we ever used to be able to see. In response to that, she wrote:

It’s not just the internet and smart phones. Our lives and culture have changed dramatically even since my parents were children. It used to be that you could raise a family on one income. Not anymore. Now we have two working parents. Or worse, one parent working two (or three!) jobs.

We have split or distant families that toggle our time.

We have access to travel that has become immediate and accessible. Our parents and grandparents used to vacation at the beach or the lake, whatever was nearby. Now we can go anywhere, anytime. And when you open your scope and ability to go farther, you will. We’re human. We’re curious.

Somehow we used to grow our own food and hang clothes on the line. Now I struggle to get groceries and laundry done every week, even with fancy machines that do it for me in a fraction of the time.

It used to be you could build your own house. Now you need two incomes and a mountain of debt to even consider putting a roof over your head.

The things we used to make, grow and build ourselves now have to be purchased. We are constantly running around to obtain essentials, like toothpaste, food, clothing, school supplies, etc. (most of us all weekend…. Costco, gas, groceries, sound familiar?) Did people drive 5 or 10 or 30 miles one way to get to their school? Office? Church? No. They probably walked because it was so close. Think about how much time you spend commuting.

What about the pressure that’s put on kids to be “well-rounded”? Sure you might have a 4.0, but if you don’t participate in sports and Honor Society, good luck getting that scholarship. My cousin (a teacher in Eastern Washington) told me that kids going INTO Kindergarten should already have certain skills like reading, numbers, colors. If not they will be behind. While this can be a good thing, it also puts added pressure on parents to constantly be thinking ahead and doing more for things you wouldn’t normally address until you got there.

On top of all of this is consumerism and capitalism, and simply just the idea of credit. Buy now pay later.

Our whole economy and culture has shaped us to be busier and busier. This is a matter of putting the frog in boiling water vs putting him in cold water and slowly turning up the heat. It’s frightening to watch as the effects compound over each generation. If that’s all we know and see and learn, it’s going to take a major shift to break that cycle.

So yes, technology plays a role, but the problem of busyness began long before the internet.

Would you agree?

I also asked this follow up question: “Is there any one area that you mentioned that adds more stress than another?”

I think it’s just the multitude of demands. If it was just one thing I would be able to manage it. But with multiple demands it just feels like I’m keeping plates spinning in the air and by the time I get one balanced, I’m running to catch another

Unfortunately, she is far from alone in this struggle. This is an ever-increasing reality in our time. The more I learn about it, the more compassion I have for us all. My sharing last week and this week, is out of a desire to help point us in the direction of God’s best for our lives, myself included. And yet, the struggle is real, isn’t it? Especially for those of us in the middle class, (and especially in the pacific northwest where rent has been on an epic increase, in 2015, Vancouver had the nations highest-rising rents – where the wage for a one bedroom is up 58% since 2012, and you need to earn $23.88/hr to be able to afford a 2 bedroom apartment) it’s safe to say, the burden of simple living has increased to a point, that more energy is spent trying to stay afloat, as she said, just trying to keep the plates spinning. That’s one thing, when the plates are optional and you’re choosing to add them, but when they’re the plates that just keep you on your feet, that’s frustrating, disheartening if not infuriating.

So, the question becomes, what are we to do? Where do we go from here? How do we keep ourselves from being consumed with worry and anxiety about keeping every plate on the stick?

To be honest, the answers aren’t easy. There are the financial answers, ensuring that we’re living within our means, that we’re not chasing a lifestyle we can’t afford simply because culture tells us we should. But, nobody wants to hear that, myself included. But, I’d say that most of us aren’t even trying to do that. Most are mindful with money. Not all, but many. So, do we just need to make more money? It’s not just rent that’s rising, nearly everything is getting more expensive, except for Gold apparently, (sorry William Devane), according to the PNC 12 days of Christmas Core Index.

But, seriously, what’s the answer? Again, I want to point to the significance of putting God at the center of everything. That has to be the starting point. I was stuck by Haggai 1:1-11, where the people seem to be struggling and God responds by saying the reason they are struggling and suffering is because they were so busy with their own houses, they hadn’t rebuilt the temple – God’s house. And while things are different because God doesn’t dwell in a temple built by human hands (Acts 7:48), he lives in the temple he built and is building (us and his gathered church), the principle remains. Are we so consumed with building our own houses that we neglect God’s house?

It has to start there. That must be the beginning. But, isn’t there a more satisfying answer? I’d point you to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

We were never designed to be unequally yoked with a society who’s value system is built on the foundation of self-satisfaction and personal fulfillment. And, though it’s not an answer to the baseline budget issues most of us struggle with, I think it’s a starting point. And it’s a question I think we can ask ourselves.

What is the genesis of the burden? 

When I’m feeling weighed down with a load of care, as the old song says (lyrics at the end of this post), who put it there? Where did it come from? Where did it begin?

For instance, and these are just examples – not condemnations, most of us in my generation would probably argue that we “need” things like Netflix, Spotify, Hulu among other entertainment channels and devices. And we argue that we’re saving money because we don’t have to pay for cable. But, if the stress is financial stress, then what we need is margin. And the pressure to stay up to date with the latest episodes of shows that are discipling us towards more cultural burden is probably not the best use of our time or money. I know it sounds ridiculous, but maybe what need is a good book, or a walk in a park, or to just be still and rest. What is the genesis of that burden to stay in the loop? We are moving towards less and less TV and screen time in our family, so far we haven’t been excommunicated from our community. We’re not up to date on Stranger Things or The Walking Dead. I’m sure those are probably old news by now anyway. But, while they may be enjoyable to watch, are they taking up time my life and mind need me to spend in other, more actually restful ways?

Or, the stuff. The stuff is a burden on most of us. I confess, I like stuff. Stuff of all kinds. Especially in the area of tools and technology. All of which require electricity. Which makes our bill go up, which takes up more margin, not counting the margin I used to get the T&T in the first place. Why do I feel like I need this stuff? Where did that burden originate? Sure, most of us like stuff, but could it be there’s an unrealistic pressure to get more stuff. We’re exposed to thousands of ads a day, all telling us our lives suck and the only way to fix them is to buy their product. Which we do, and we still end up dissatisfied.

Or the ambition. One thing I notice more and more in myself and in many, many people around me is the toll ambition is taking on our lives. Especially in my generation and younger. We want to leave a legacy. How did that movie put it? Right, Oblivion. We’re terrified we won’t leave our mark on this planet. Well, I say go carve your name in a rock somewhere and be done with it. We feel like we were made for more and we sell our souls in the pursuit of it. Should we pursue more? Should we chase our dreams? Maybe there’s nothing wrong with it. But, is the burden it’s putting on our lives worth it? Is it worth it at the expense of all else? I’m not saying we shouldn’t chase our dreams, but for too many the pursuit of dreams turns our present into a nightmare.

Or, well, this post is getting really long. Truth be told, there are thousands of ways our present reality has burdened us. We’re not just unequally yoked with a society that has an entirely different set of mores than we do. We’ve got a hundred  yokes around our neck. And if they all but gently tug, we feel as though our necks will snap.

What’s the answer? Uneasy as it may be, we must begin to identify the yokes we wear, and either take them off, or take them to our Father who has a much better burden for us. Having removed them from our neck, from having the position in our lies where they control us, restrict us and force us to be at the work of plowing their fields, then and only then can we evaluate them for what they are. Some that are acceptable, I’m certain God will allow us to throw into the wagon behind us. He will allow us to have them as long as they don’t have us.

The rest, well, I just think when we’ve got the only burden right, everything else will start fall into place. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu’rors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.

Do you have thoughts on how we can live a life free of the burdens of society? We’d love to hear them!