IVP - Strangely Dim - Product-ivity

May 7, 2007


This month has, already, been full of many "things to do." I hear words like this passed between people on a daily basis:

"I've got lots of things to do today."
"I've got so much stuff to do this week."
"If I didn't have so many things to do, I could get some sleep."
"There's not enough time in the day for all of the things I need to do."

And the like.

A few days ago I had many "things to do," including a load of reading for grad school and some papers to write. As the night turned out, I never got any of those things done.

I came home from work and helped my husband, Michael, with a paper. It's finals week for him, and I'm the editor-in-residence in our apartment. Shortly thereafter a friend called me, and we met to have some coffee together. The conversation was great and we were able to pray for one another, which was especially encouraging because we are both heading into some new transitions in our lives. It was a spiritually refreshing and relationally rich time, but not very "productive" in relation to all of the "things to do" in my life.

Not an hour after returning home, one of the people who lives in our apartment complex knocked on the window, and we invited her inside. This woman lives alone and we barely know her, but she obviously needed some other people to connect with. The three of us shared some words, some food and some prayer. By the time she left, I needed to get in bed.

So I accomplished nothing Monday night that was on my "things to do" list. I was not "productive" in the sense that most Americans use the word: I had not accomplished any tangible thing that could prove my worth to the world at large.

But "doing things" and being "productive" are not necessarily spiritual realities. Even the word itself implies that we are creating a product: product-ivity. We have enmeshed Christianity with the American dream and so we find pride in describing ourselves as productive: "I'm productive today!" or "I'm a productive human being!" are phrases commonly praised by others. All too often, we understand our worth in relation to what we produce, sometimes even seeing ourselves as a product to be presented to the world. And yet humans are not products. My fault is in using this language of "product-ivity" to try and craft myself into the very thing I am not designed to be.

Monday night was a reminder that I am not a product. I am a creation of the God who has more on his mind than grad school papers, the God who knows when talking with a neighbor is the most important thing I can do. The papers can wait, the "things to do" and "productivity" can be put on hold. God is in the process of crafting fuller human beings, and if I actually paid attention to the cliché of "being a human being rather than a human doing," I might lead a life that is a little less hectic and perhaps even less self-focused. I might even begin to see others (and myself) as creations rather than as product-creators or even as products themselves. Wouldn't that be a lovely thing to do?

Posted by Ann Swindell at May 7, 2007 2:16 PM Bookmark and Share


You are a wonderful wife!

Comment by: Michael Swindell at May 9, 2007 12:47 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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