Why We Can't (and Shouldn't) Always Be Productive

Every young women has probably had it said to her on at least one occasion, “make sure you pursue your dreams now, because once you get married (or have children) you will no longer be able to get as much done.”

In some ways this is what Paul had in mind when he talked about the single person being free to minister, while the married one is divided in her pursuits. But often when we hear people talk about marriage and children it is with a negative bent. Divided attention hampers productivity. And in our industrious society, what you produce is what defines you and gives you value.

The culture would have us believe that marriage is the end of all aspirations and productivity. You are now tied down. You aren’t free. You now answer to someone other than yourself. While marriage does limit the freedom of doing things on a whim and working until midnight every night, marriage also gives us a really important thing that God desires for us—greater personal holiness.

Suddenly, I can’t do everything I want to do all of the time. And that is a very good thing sometimes. Marriage has made me get outside of myself and examine my priorities. Marriage has made me die to my idols of productivity that hinder me from loving my husband more than I love my pursuits. Marriage has revealed just how utterly selfish I am about “my time.” Marriage is the God-ordained institution that points to the relationship between Christ and the Church. Completing my endless to-do list does not.

As created beings we were made to be productive and to work hard for God’s glory. But this is not the only thing we were created for, as much as our western world would have us believe otherwise. We were also created for relationships with friends, family, spouses, and children, and more importantly, a relationship with our Savior. It is through these relationships that I am stripped of my sin and idolatry. It is through these relationships that I am able to see Christ in greater measure. These are realities that a solitary pursuit of my own perfect productivity can never create.

Like I said, in the relationship of marriage I have to die to self, serve, and love another person. It’s not always pay raises and glory, but it’s good. It pays much greater dividends in the long run. And while I am still thankful for the days where I can get my to-do list completely checked off, I am learning to be much more thankful for the moments of relational intimacy that marriage provides. Productivity and relationships are not in competition with one another. They both are necessary in God’s economy. And they both can easily become idols if we are not careful.

And now that I am married I am on the other end of the advice giving to young women. The next time I feel tempted to imply that your dreams of productivity are over once you get married, I will stop myself. Marriage and family are not the dashing of our dreams; rather they are the reorientation of these dreams. Through marriage and family our aspirations and desire for productivity are tempered and sanctified by the beauty of living life with another person. And that is a very good thing.