“I don’t have enough time to get everything done,” I confided in my friend. “I make these to-do lists, and still, my work is never finished.”
My friend suggested I show her the list. Together we examined each task. With a deep sigh, I looked up, waiting to hear the sympathetic words, “This is too much!”
But with a kind smile she asserted, “That’s reasonable.”
Shock rippled through me. If my daily obligations are all reasonable, then why am I always leaving chores for tomorrow?
My friend forced me to face the truth: I didn’t want to get everything done.
Yes, my days were highly productive – consumed by various flavors of busyness.
But those mind-numbingly dull tasks, like folding laundry, often were met with an excuse. Instead of taking care of the mundane, I chose a different task – something that seemed productive, and ultimately, something enjoyable.
My days possessed the guise of productivity, but in reality, all that busyness masked a secret vice: I was lazy. Or more accurate: I was slothful. Father John Hardon defines sloth as a “sluggishness of soul or boredom of the exertion necessary for the performance of any good work.” This means, I can be plagued by sloth and still be a busy person. I was slothful simply because I was unwilling to do the tasks – the duties – of my vocation.
What I’ve realized is that the key isn’t busyness, the key is fruitfulness. The question isn’t “what would I like to do now,” but what am I called to do now?
Maybe it’s the cooking and cleaning, or maybe it’s meaningful time with my family.
Our vocational duties are not all equal; there is a hierarchy, and there are seasons for different needs. For example, I might need to forgo certain household obligations when the stomach bug hits. Just as I should wait to write if the laundry baskets are overflowing. But in honoring the duties of each season, we discover we have more time.
Sloth is a dangerous illness of the soul. And while it doesn’t make headlines, many are ailing. Sloth wounds and weakens our wills and hurts our relationships. Sloth hides in enticing excuses and encourages us to view life through limited goggles: there’s not enough time to work, clean, pray, and even play.
But we are called to be stewards of our time. “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
We can turn every “I don’t want to” into a prayer, inviting Jesus into the moment, and honoring the inherent dignity of each task.
As St. Teresa of Avila said: “When obedience calls you into the kitchen, amidst the pots and dishes, remember that our Lord goes along with you.”
Yes, we can find our King amidst the pots and pans, the bins of laundry, and brooms; and when we do, we begin to experience the joy and the abundance of a fruitful life.
By Ann Burns, a wife and mother, and founder of The Feminine Project, www.feminineproject.com.