Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep
Abide in me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,
unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
...for apart from me, you can do nothing (John 15:4,5).
It was after midnight at the end of another long, busy day, and I had an early breakfast meeting the next morning. I decided to read a psalm before I turned off the light and, with no particular rhyme or reason, settled on Psalm 127. Although I have read this psalm before, I was completely unprepared for the shock it gave me that night.
Verse two caught me completely off guard: "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil." I was struck right between the eyes. There could not have been a more vivid and disturbingly apt description of my life and the lives of most people I know here at Sojourners and elsewhere.
Busyness has become a way of life for many of us, even a status symbol. Our work is justified only if we are continually active and preoccupied. There are so many necessary and urgent things to be done. After one task is completed, there are others always waiting in the wings, needing our immediate attention. To slow down, to rest, often seems out of the question, a lack of commitment, a sign of weakness. Not only our days, but many of our evenings and weekends become filled too. We are not just eating the bread of anxious toil; we are daily gulping down loaf after loaf after loaf. "Give us this day," we pray, "our daily bread (of anxious toil)."