“Measures of Productivity”

29 12 2011

BY DAVID BROCK, presiding evangelist

How do we measure the most productive years of life?

The apex for most athletes is their late 20s or early 30s. The genius of scientific research and creative invention is often in the first half of life. The best wage-earning years for many are in their 50s or 60s.

Jerry Wiley, a retired teacher from Independence, Missouri, helps a youngster at a Jesus and Me session.

Our economic, political, sporting, and social organizations gain a competitive edge by training, hiring, and employing the right people at the right time to receive maximum output. That’s how we survive and achieve. That’s how we win.

There’s a lot to be said for such a system. Productivity is a priority. But we may need new measures when we speak of it in terms of the gospel and sacramental living.

I hear the elderly express guilt that they can’t do anymore. “I can’t give as much money as I used to.” “I can’t make as many home visits this year as I did last year.” “My hands are weak; my knees are feeble.” And I hear the bright person who suffers from schizophrenia lament how he burdens his family and provides little or no value to the world.

Without romanticizing harsh realities of disease and disorder, or the vulnerabilities of childhood and of aging, I uphold (No, I dare declare that God in Christ upholds) the possibility that the most “productive” are often the folk who are disabled, challenged, immature, or old.

Can we recalibrate our “productivity” scale to measure the value of the Down syndrome teen who arrives on a church campground and draws out the spirit of community in ways no other camper can? Can we place a productivity value on the actions of aged, cloistered Carthusian monks who’ve prayed for peace and healing of humanity decade upon decade? Can we calculate the productivity of the helpless and vulnerable newborn whose birth reunites an estranged family?

Recently, I visited some seniors at an assisted-living facility. I saw anew the impress of God as conveyed by Jan van Ruysbroek, a 14th-century mystic: “I no longer need the productivity of hands and feet you once could give. I want lives that ‘are more beautifully adorned and more nobly possessed when…interior exercises are added to those of the active life.’ I want you to give the world the productivity of becoming free from distracting absorption, from ‘restlessness of heart.’”

A sacramental life is a productive life; the most productive life. If we truly believe the good news we’ve got some redefining to do.




One response

29 12 2011
RAISER William

We have great need for an alternative, Restoration gospel based, vision of society. “Seniors” often have good education plus years of experience and now time to study, reflect and discuss and then support experiments in community. Seniors can, and ought to, take the lead in actualizing the Restoration gospel.

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