God wants us to be attentive rather than active
This week I am busy collecting stress points. In fact, today I have already collected at least 25 and it’s not even 9.00 am. The reason is that I find myself offline, involuntarily. My internet provider has prematurely disconnected our landline and broadband even though we do not move house until Monday. It’s going to be a challenge getting this blog out. In fact, moving house is often seen as one of the most stressful life events, not least because it is often linked with other major changes such as changing your job. But looking at the table in Wikipedia it represents just 20 points. That can’t be right! For your info, the highest score in this scale is the death of a spouse at some 100 points while dismissal from work, for example, represents 47 points. Being dumped: 53 points. Retirement, incidentally, is 45 points. It all goes back to 1967, the year I began college (20 points) when two American medical students, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, consulted over 5000 patients in ranking 43 life events for the level of stress each produced. The result was their grandly-entitled Social Readjustment Rating Scale. What this Holmes and Rahe stress scale does show, somewhat counter-intuitively, is that not all points come from sad or negative situations. Weddings as well as funerals can take it out of us albeit in different ways. This is an important insight, whether we are exhilarated or exhausted So getting married costs 50 points while marital reconciliation – surely a good thing – is estimated as costing us 45 points. An “outstanding personal achievement” (whatever that is) comes in at 28 points. Even going on holiday, sadly, gives us 13 points, one point more than Christmas! However, where this scale really comes into its own is the obvious understanding that we can only cope with so much stress whatever the cause, So you go through their table and identify those events you have experienced in the previous 12 months. This time period of one year is important – we take longer to recover than we think. If you reach a total of 150 points, then you have a moderate to high chance of being ill in the near future. 300 points means high to very high. I note that following Everton is not included in the scale. Otherwise I would hit 300 on a regular basis. Clearly, life isn’t that simple. Different life events have different impacts for different people, depending on culture, situation and personality. But nevertheless it does give a useful insight into how we are to live our lives. Obviously life hits us and as Shakespeare observed “when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” But there are some areas of our lives where we may have some control – such as changing job or taking out a large loan or (unlikely though this may sound) going to Wembley to support EFC. The knack is keeping our stress score under 150 over a 12 month period. Again, we can only handle so much stress, something which Christians are reluctant to admit. The apostle Paul knew all about stress, not least the challenge of living life in differing situations, in feast as well as famine. So he writes to his friends in Philippi: “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and going hungry, of having plenty and being in need.” (Philippians 3:12) He understands only too well that each brings its own particular temptations and above all his own weakness. The secret in thriving in all scenarios is to keep on trusting his Lord. So he continues: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 3:13). Here Paul is not claiming to be a Superhero. He knew from experience that he could so easily reach breaking point. In fact, he had already written to the church in Corinth of a time of testing in the Roman province of Asia, that “we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself (2 Corinthians 1:8) There must have been times too when this fast-moving apostle was tempted to stay longer in a place where he was valued, to linger and enjoy the fruits of his labour. It’s all down to pace – we can only we can only take so much excitement as well as so much hassle! And so we need to structure our lives, to be intentional in how we live our lives for God. So over the last few months I’ve picked up a fair number of stress points, nothing spectacular, but nevertheless when you add them all up – including our house move next week, tells me that I should be cautious in taking on anything new, not being afraid to say NO. It’s not that God wants us to be active: he simply wants us to be attentive. “Doing something for you, bringing something to you – that’s not what you’re after. Being religious, acting pious – that’s not what you’re asking for. You’ve opened my ears so I can listen” Psalm 40:6. Message translation) Now, how do I get this blog out?