Productive? What’s That?

Productive: adj. 1. producing  or capable of producing 2. Producing abundantly; fertile. 3. Yielding favorable or useful results; constructive.

Productive and fertile are synonyms. That’s interesting isn’t it?  A woman’s ability to reproduce and our capacity to help others grow and develop is part of our heritage. Producing is in our genes.

That makes sense when you look at women as a whole, and mothers especially. We’re given to productivity. We have to be. We’re anticipating needs and identifying solutions as a way of life. However, this good trait can be overblown when we act as if every second of life is intended to be what we might outwardly classify as productive.

If I evaluated my life last week in that way, I was not productive. But, in reality, it turned out to be one of the most satisfying and joy-filled weeks that I’ve had in a long while.

At the beginning of the week I still desired to create happiness despite circumstances, but I was suffering. Overwhelmed by another financial disappointment, I plunged headfirst into a hyperactive version of my get-up-and-go trap of problem solving. While problem solving is good, toiling or worry is not productive.  I couldn’t move forward in either my outward or inward goals.

Then I read these words from a prophet in the Book of Mormon who’s teaching a group of poor saints about how and where to worship God, especially through prayer:

Contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place you may be in, in spirit and truth; and that ye may live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you. (Alma 34:38)

Two lines of this scripture stood out to me and I shared them with my seminary students—contend no more against the Holy Ghost and worship God in whatsoever place you may be in.

First, I asked myself—am I worshiping God, right now, in my sorrow and suffering? Am I worshiping him in my problems and adversity? Am I praising him and thanking him for his mercies and blessings at this precise moment when I think I have nothing?

I could honestly admit that even though I’d been to church the day before to worship, even though I’d prayed and studied this scripture that very morning, I allowed the frantic stress I felt to keep me from worshiping in my moments of distress. This led me to ponder a new question—how could I, like these people Alma was teaching, worship God, in the midst of my perceived poverty?

That led me to consider the line, “contend no more against the Holy Ghost.” Were my racing thoughts productively searching for solutions or just mentally trying to control the outcome of our circumstances with overly-anxious planning? In an effort to be productive wasn’t I contending against the very tool God had given me to bring comfort, calm, peace and guidance and, instead, trusting in my own intellect?

These two admissions stopped me. Stopped me posting here. Stopped me from keeping my daily writing goals. Stopped me from plowing ahead in future goals. I gave myself permission to break from my normal need to be productive. I rested my mind and my body. I napped longer during the days and rested my brain with tasks like sorting through the out-grown clothes piled in my laundry room.

Most importantly, I also stopped judging my progress and productivity on how much I accomplished but on how much better I felt and the resulting positive interactions with my family. As you can see, this week I’m back to blogging and some other goals—back to being productive, as we might say. But, I’ve changed my approach.

The part of productivity that confuses us as women is that we allow external measurements to guide our feelings and thoughts about ourselves and those become the basis for our future thoughts, words and deeds.

Once I gave myself permission to measure myself from the inside—from my spiritual self—I could listen to my body, my mind and my spirit and renew my feminine capacity to grow beyond a place of suffering. I stopped thinking of my own abilities and capacities to solve the problem and reflected on my need to worship and still my soul so that I could hear the quiet word of God in my heart.

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2 Comments

  1. Camille
    Feb 8, 2010

    Psalms 46:10 and Doctrine and Covenants 101:16!!
    And the hymn Be Still My Soul. I’ll have to go remind myself of all the words. The Lord is on the side, with patience bear thy cross of grief and pain…. Love the spirit of that hymn! Beautiful.

  2. Terresa Wellborn
    Feb 11, 2010

    I like this question, “Am I worshiping God, right now?” I just may post this around my house.

    I like the refocusing of self on the inner, spiritual self, instead of the outer “to do” (busy) self. I get trapped in the latter world until I buckle at the knees. I’d rather, by choice, focus on the inner, spirituality of life and then as an extension of that focus, do what needs to be done in my life and family.

    Love this post!

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