Maybe you are like me, foolishly thinking that as soon as I get something done, as soon as I check an item off my to-do list, as soon as I complete a project, as soon as I round this corner, then I can relax; I can finally achieve peace. Like a mirage, achieving peace often seems to be just within our reach when suddenly it’s gone, and we are back in the spin cycle of achievement.
In his blog, Oliver Burkeman writes:
“I’ve written before about the sense many of us have that we begin each morning in a state of “productivity debt”, which we must struggle to pay off over the course of the day, if we’re to feel by the evening like we’ve earned our spot on the planet. (Few things feel more basic to my experience of adulthood, than this vague sense that I’m falling behind, and need to claw my way back up to some minimum standard of output.)
Many days, you end up feeling like you failed to pay off this mysterious existential debt. But the days when you succeed – when you do make it through your to-do list, or do conquer the accomplishment that seemed so consequential at 8am – aren’t really all that much better, because the satisfaction is so fleeting. A new day will soon dawn, after all. The debt will reset. The rock will roll back down the hill.”
I understand this. No matter how much I achieve the day before, I often wake up with that rock on my chest. I feel like I am behind before I wake up. What I found most fascinating about Burkeman’s blog was not his analysis of our need to achieve but his solution. As a secular writer, he actually can’t figure out a solution, so he turns to a solution offered by Christian writer Jordan Raynor.
In his interesting book Redeeming Your Time, Christian writer Jordan Raynor points out that in Christianity, this idea takes the form of grace: the principle that God “offers you peace before you do anything.” You don’t accomplish things in life in order to attain peace; that’s unnecessary, indeed hubristic. You accomplish them as “a response of worship” to the peace you’ve already been given, deservedly or not.
I agree. Real peace is a gift, not an achievement. Jesus said, “Peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” The world offers the mirage of peace through achievement; Jesus offers real peace as a gift. Achieving real peace…only possible through Christ.