(Posted by Jane)
It seems that my mind is so conditioned to seek measurable achievement that I’m in danger of losing the art of simply living. I watch our landlady through the window — Magdalena, or Jaja (granny) to her friends and family. She must be in her late 60s at least, with 9 grownup children, though its hard to tell with her beautiful black skin that age so well — perhaps she’s older. She spends most of the day sitting outside her house, or outside ours when the sun shifts her shade. Sometimes she sifts through beans, or receives a visitor to sit with her. Occasionally she wanders around the compound tending to her small plantations, or ventures onto the street outside the gate to take a walk or interact with the neighbours. But mostly she sits.
I’m sure she did less sitting 20 years ago, occupied by 9 small children and a busy household. Though I like to think she still sat outside her house a fair amount — something our culture sees as being a rare luxury, for Sunday afternoons perhaps, as opposed to a daily norm. What’s my goal? Less sitting, more doing? Surely. I wonder if Jaja would tell me to do less and sit more… There’s something about the simplicity of her daily life that challenges me. I assume I’m achieving more by dashing around. But by who’s standards? By what scale of ‘achievement’ am I measuring my days?
When we came back to Kampala after the summer my older sister sent me a message: ‘Janie, try and fight the need to be productive.’ Those words have echoed, challenged, revealed. I’ve realised that productivity and achievement are not just a cultural value I have but a ‘need’; something I’m almost bound by that I have to fight off. I have no doubt that productivity and achievement have great value, but not when they become a need or skewed by my own interpretation of what it means to have achieved. I want a ‘good’ answer when people say ‘what do you do?’ – something that sounds important and impressive. I dress this desire up in good intentions; surely God wants we to be productive and effective with my time, to be doing something monumental for his kingdom. And I love the buzz of busyness and feeling needed and doing something significant, in my eyes.
I clearly have a culturally prompted, personally fueled need to be productive. Increasingly I realise that this need is not prompted or fueled by God. Gently, steadily he is saying slow down. Look at Jaja. Time spent sitting is not time wasted. So today, I’m doing little. Pottering, not rushing. And at the end of the day, in his eyes, I will have no less achieved.