Didn't Shakespeare write: "To be or not to be?"
Maybe its an age-old question; it certainly is a conundrum for me as a person and as a mother. Where is the balance between being and doing?
As a firstborn, I am driven to "do." Most firstborns are. We're a strange lot to those who don't share the role of going first in the family. Sure, it looks like a certain amount of glory, and there is some, to be truthful. But there is also the fact that we must be "first" in many other areas and that very "firstness" is a terrifying, motivating factor at times.
I am not going to attempt an in-depth study of firstborn traits; see Dr. Kevin Lemen's excellent books for more. Suffice it to say that being firstborn makes this more of an issue for me personally. For others, it may be other temperament traits that give you that type-A, overachieving need to be "doing."
However you come by it, perhaps you have struggled with this question as well.
There is certainly praise in "doing." We, as humans, were created to "have dominion and subdue" the earth. God tasked even the first couple in their perfect environment with work at which to excel. And the Bible always praises diligence and best effort; God is never impressed with half-hearted attempts, either at work or at worship.
Yet, we were also created to "be." As the human bearers of His image, we have innate glory in simply belonging to the splendor of our world, in taking in the wonder and absorbing the delight of our God's gifts.
Still, the conscientous soul shrinks from embracing this idea too eagerly. After all, most of us have a mental image of the hillbilly slouched on the porch with a straw hat over his eyes, digesting his dinner and relaxing while in the background broken down fences and a shabby cabin tell the true story. If that is "being," no thanks!
But is there not a place for some kind of "restfulness" of soul that recognizes the value in stillness and the worth of a human being apart from his or her accomplishments?
This is a slippery concept to grasp. It means that there is a connection between our "being" and our "doing" in a deeper way than is usually thought. Often when I think of death, I am eager to see my Lord, but I think about all the projects I want to finish that I must leave undone at that point. Then I remember that God sees the unwritten, uncompleted works in me; He views my undone tasks as me. All of those things wrapped up in the inner person are me - they comprise the value He has vested in me. No matter when I go on to the next world or what the status of my personal goals are at that time, I am not imcomplete. It is all part of my "being."
In our culture of accomplishment and constant improvement, it is difficult to remember that there is something to be said for just "being" somewhere, someplace - there is value in enjoyment, in having the ability to relish where we are and what we've been given. Sometimes when I hear my children practice their instruments, I am reminded that I don't want them merely to be satisfied that they have put in X amount of minutes; I want them to enjoy the instrument. That is the goal of practice. If one does not feel inspired and elevated occasionally by the music she is making, of what purpose is her rehearsal? To try to delight others when she cannot find joy in it herself? What an empty use of time that would be!
I have wondered if I might not have done better as a mom if I should have not opened doors for them and prompted them to reach beyond the everyday. Do mothers who encourage their children to accomplish and experience actually cramming more into childhood and adolescence than is healthy? Are those who simply go to school, graduate, work at a local factory, have a family, never reach for the extraordinary,etc. happier in life? Certainly, they don't have to contend with the anxieties of performance and the inner compulsion to do more than work, eat and sleep. But is that better? Do they find more delight in a field of wheat blowing in the wind or in a slice of pie eaten on the front porch? Or are their eyes so accustomed to the everyday joys that they are also blind to them? Perhaps their very immersion in that kind of "being" numbs their sensitivity to it. And, what if no one studied music or left the hometown or took a leap into a challenging sphere? What a dismal, backward society that would create. I'm sure that would not be to my liking.
In the end, I'm convinced there must be both "doing" and "being." To subtract either from daily life is to thwart God's purpose in us. The challenge for me is to keep them in balance, never to lose sight of either, and to be able to discern when to focus on one or the other. I think knowing appropriateness is the key. I must be vulnerable to the messages God gives me in my spirit, through my family and in the kind of day He has betowed. Some days and moods seem to fairly shout whether it is time to "do" or to "be." Maybe that's why I actually like a gray day once in a while; it beckons me to "be."
The wisdom in the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1 give the benediction here - "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
A time to "be" and a time to "do." Amen.
(and there is the answer, Shakespeare!)