I recently heard the following question (I’ve already forgotten where) and it has stayed with me over the days since: Did you do anything to become alive? It’s an excellent question because it can stop so many of our internal messages about performance and measuring up. The bottom line, in the speaker’s (or writer’s?) mind, was that we simply are.
How does that statement—we simply are—sit with you? Is it hard to believe or embrace, or is it a relief? Personally, I’ve been trained by too many aspects of our culture toward a performance mindset. I struggle not to believe that my presence only matters if I’m succeeding at something, making the grade, doing the job, bringing in the money, effecting change, making a difference…the list could go on forever. So, for me, this statement brings relief and a chance to step back from the “goal and accomplishment” perspective that tends to govern my days.
The Protestant work ethic is deeply embedded in our culture. As I pondered in a post earlier this year, we’ve been taught to believe that our very existence is only worth something if we’re plugged into capitalist society in a way that brings “gain,” usually financial. Yet that’s not God’s viewpoint, as reflected in scripture. God set up Israelite society so even the fields get time off and everything reverts to its original owner every fifty years (that year being called a Jubilee Year). Then there’s nothing to be “gained” in the long term and every bit of creation has intrinsic worth.
Jesus came out of that tradition. He didn’t call only the industrious or the financially successful. In fact, I would bet that those folks didn’t have any time to listen to him. Remember his story of the king who threw a wedding banquet and the guests were too busy to come? When they refused, the king sent his servants out to invite to the feast anyone they could find, “both good and bad.” All are welcome at God’s banquet. God created every one of us, after all.
Believing we have intrinsic worth can lower our blood pressure, slow our frenetic pace, and remind us that we don’t have to buy into so many capitalist assumptions. Our very existence is sufficient. Scripture also makes it clear that grace is freely given by God, and freely available to each of us. And where there’s grace, there is permission to simply be.
So, how does it feel to read this? Can you let go of striving, at least a little, and accept your inherent worthiness? Can you join me in celebrating that we simply are?