By Tim Yearsley, reprinted from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
I’ve hit Inbox Zero. Outlook tells me, “You’re all caught up.” There’s no one waiting for me to reply to them. I walk away, my inbox gleaming like a polished kitchen worktop.
And then I feel an irresistible urge to make sure my inbox stays at zero. So I check back. And back. With more nervous frequency than when it’s full.
It’s as if I’m locked into a game where I earn a point for every email I send. Reach a certain number of points within the time limit, and win the prize. The name of this game is efficiency. The prize is contentment.
I don’t like this game. It’s rigged. Not only are there always more points to earn, I can’t ever stop playing.
You may be one of those people who has a little red circle on your email app with a number comfortably into three figures. You’ve stopped playing the game. And I salute you.
But for those of us who battle on against brimming inboxes, noisy Teams chats, and GIF-filled WhatsApp pings, we need help. We are harassed and helpless, running on a treadmill stuck on accelerate, getting us nowhere.
It’s easy to self-righteously decry “the culture” for its preoccupation with hurried efficiency. But “the culture” is the very place I show up as a disciple of Jesus, and its power to shape me in its image is more than I might dare acknowledge.
Of course, rarely are all those notifications as urgent as I believe they are. My reaction to inbox zero is, then, a glimpse of how I am indeed a product of my culture. I must “be efficient and know that I am good.”
I need to be rewired from the inside out. I need to know that contentment is not a prize to be earned, it’s a gift to be enjoyed. I need to hear the still small voice of the gift-giver.
He whispers, “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
To be still in this culture can mean allowing my email count to tick back from “0” to “1” without fret. It can mean a decision to not reply until tomorrow. And, when I do reply, to not start by telling the recipient I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to them.
Being still in these ways helps me internalize that he is God, not me. Then contentment comes. And I like it.