A year ago, I rushed into a place of business after school one day, four children underfoot, to complete an errand on my never-ending list of errands to complete. The owner of the business was sitting in his chair, leaned back, with his arms resting easy in his lap. When we barreled in, as we do, he didn’t jump up. He didn’t seem alarmed. He just asked how he could help. He seemed content.
After I completed my errand my thoughts returned to the owner’s posture upon entering his business. Was he doing anything? What was he doing? He wasn’t hunched over a computer. Or a phone. Was he thinking? Was he just sitting there thinking??
It was not a posture of production, but of rest. What an odd sight.
It’s hard to describe my subsequent feeling after that experience. Was it confusion? Surprise? Jealousy? Why was he able to sit and think? And why did I find it so odd and confusing? And why was I so intrigued and compelled by such a natural thing?
If you ask any red blooded American family how they are doing today, I can almost guarantee their response.
It’s kind of the American badge of honor, the rite of passage for any self-respecting, growing, working, productive member of society isn’t it? Busyness. The conversation looks something like this:
“How’ve you been. Been busy?”
“Been so busy. You? You been busy?”
“Us too. It’s non-stop you know?”
“Yeah. I know”
And that’s it. That’s the extent of the conversation, because there is no time to say anything else, lest we miss the next appointment on our all-consuming iCalendar. That calendar is a powerful thing isn’t it? It almost feels like it gives us power – “Let me check my calendar,” we say. “My calendar is so full too,” we chime back. We wouldn’t want to suggest that our calendar has a whole open space. Because that would mean that we aren’t busy. And busy is our way to be. It is the measure of our importance, isn’t it? Eugene Peterson talks about our busyness in The Contemplative Pastor.
“The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection.”
I wonder how the conversation would turn if someone were to fall off the script? I wonder what would happen if we stopped wearing busyness like a badge of honor?
“How’ve you been? Been busy?”
“Not really. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. I turned down a few committee positions and devoted more time to prayer. You?”
Try to gather what kind of response you would have to that. I dare say it would put a cog in one’s perpetual motor, would it not?
Though many have tried, we simply cannot be two places at once (I very literally have tried to do this). So, when we commit our time to one committee/place/sport/person/pastime/job, we withdrawal ourselves from another committee/place/sport/person/pastime/job. Yes to one is no to another.
The symptom is pandemic. Organizations, schools, and sports teams all feel the need to appear busy as well. And the church is just as guilty. If we aren’t careful, we could program the Life right out of the church, focusing on the activity of the church rather than the God of church.
The problem, then, is that the only thing filled by a busy schedule is the calendar itself, and those rushing to and fro remain empty and unfulfilled.
The past year has been a time of FOCUS for our family. Michael suggested the word focus in order to streamline our commitments and reduce our overall busyness, so that those things that we say are priority actually take priority in our lives. We spend a lot of time saying no. (Directions: HERE). The freedom from too many commitments has freed me to spend more time in God’s word, develop new friendships, and invest deeply in our children. Since Christmas, we have spent each Sunday evening walking together through our woods. This past weekend on our walk, I sat down and watched as the kids maneuvered the hill they so love to climb. The fallen sticks crunched beneath my feet, the warm air enveloped me, and I breathed deeply the fresh spring air (so sorry for all the pollen sufferers who have a completely different experience with that air..). As I was sitting there, I began thinking of the wonder of God’s creation and my gratitude for it. You know, I was just sitting there thinking….
Our experience with God cannot be a drive-thru experience. Our devotion to him comes at a sacrifice to otherness, to busyness. Abiding in Him must not be rushed, nor an activity, nor a thing to do. It must be a frame of mind, devoid of distraction, that is only possible through Him. The unbusy frame of mind is one I have seen lived out through the life of my Granddaddy, who was unbusy enough to pen these words:
I met with God this morning as I knelt beneath the trees,
And He laid His hand upon me in the coolness of the breeze;
I bowed my head in silence as the world went rushing by,
And we had peaceful moments–The Lord, the trees, and I.
The trees had laid the carpet on which I knelt to pray,
And as we met together it seemed that I should stay
To watch the trees grow stronger with arms raised toward the sky.
We soon became acquainted–The Lord, the trees, and I.
The trees and I were puzzled; we lived at God’s command!
But why should some be missing and others bravely stand?
Some cut down, others fallen–Perhaps you know just why…
We shared our cares together–The Lord, the trees, and I.
Then came I near the valley to hear the singing pines,
They live so close together, the choice of trees to find.
But howling winds came, forcing their weary heads to cry;
Some things we had in common–The Lord, the trees, and I.
When day for me is over and friends are left behind,
I’ll rest in peace forever, and I’d sleep beneath the pines.
Could I speak to those around me, I’d say, “Oh, please don’t cry…
We’ll be satisfied together–The Lord, the trees, and I.
May we all be unbusy enough to abide in the One who so wants to dwell in our uncluttered hearts and minds. I’ll end with this beautiful heartcry from Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.