I’ve been wanting to write a blog about how B-U-S-Y is today’s new, ugly 4-letter word. We love to exclaim, whine, explain, and boast, “I am so busy!”
I’ll start with a full confession: I’ve said it, and I’ve used it! I hate it, and I’m still drawn into it — the self-descriptor, “I’m busy!” and all the self-imposed activity I feel compelled to perform and profess — whether for fun, for others, for charity, for work, for family…or anything else. Please be sure to notice all the plural personal pronouns that follow. I am talking about my own busy self, and gently suggesting there might be a few other busy people out there who resonate.
When someone asks, “How are you,” it’s my observation that a meaningless “I’m fine” is no longer our top default reply. Instead we so often like to say something like, “I am sooo busy.” Sometimes it’s even, “I’m crazy busy!” That one’s probably reserved more for when we know we haven’t gotten to something that should have been a higher priority for us. In today’s culture, “I’m busy” can be a “valid” excuse for letting others down.
Whether I am saying that “I’m busy” or when I’m hearing it mentioned, I feel like all this reported busyness is possibly a touch of pride hiding in a harmless, little complaint. I know that sometimes I sort of enjoy saying “I’m too busy to…” because it gives me permission to be a little selfish in my choices without as much guilt. And as an added bonus, I simultaneously feel important and sought-after. All good, right? Except I hate living life at this busy pace! I also feel the consequences, the emptiness, the sin.
I’m big on clear definitions… four top ones for busy are: 1. engaged in action: occupied, 2. full of activity, 3. foolishly or intrusively active, 4. full of distracting detail. With these in mind, our responses to our busy friends, family and co-workers are almost as ridiculous as the ways we brag and posture with our busyness!
The stock response we like to give when someone tells us, “I’m soo busy” is sort of a congratulations! Sometimes it’s a longing for the busy person’s life — a somewhat covetous, “Wow! What (tremendously wonderful things like I see on facebook) have you been busy doing?” Or “that’s a lot better than the alternative.” Oh — heaven forbid, we have a day or two that we are not busy! Really? Or my personal favorite for its power and simplicity, “I know!” It subtely bonds us as it implies that I commiserate. I am also very busy, and certainly the goal we are all striving for is to be busy performing well, useful, distracted, occupied, tired, foolish, intrusive, tardy, aloof, overwhelmed… I know even my most well-intentioned and virtuous “busyness” has led me to all of these places.
The curious thing is that our lamented busyness is almost always self-imposed. Unnecessarily burdensome work schedules can often be included, and definitely our volunteer obligations, sports participation, classes, trips, decorating, family events and myriad other activities. We multiply all this busyness by encouraging our children and spouses to keep busy! We are busy because of our own ambitions, goals, desires or even our anxieties. Some of us stay addicted to busyness because we dread what we might feel in its absence. I sometimes wonder whether my slightly dramatic exhaustion from all life’s busyness is a way of covering up my fear that much of what I am doing really isn’t all that important? Going even deeper, am I so busy that I cannot be who God created me to be? Because BEING fully alive as God created me to BE in Him is the only way I can ever hope to do what God created me to do.
Do you see how screamingly distracting all that bold-faced busyness can be? Do you see how even being busy for awesome and worthy causes and people can be a distraction from what’s most important? When I am so crazy busy doing so many good things, do I have time for relationships? Do I really listen? Do I make God and my time with Him my top priority? When I am so crazy busy, how am I in tune to The Holy Spirit? How can I be available and surrendered to His prompting, when I am too busy to rest? When I am too busy for God?
Elisabeth Elliot said, “The will of God is not something you add to your life. It’s a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God…or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world.” I don’t want to conform to this world. I want to be transformed…
I found a blog post that is wonderful on this subject of “busyness.” In it, Tsh Oxenreider says so much of what I’ve thought about the perils of busyness, the value in slowing down — and so much more. I suggest you read it, and I’ll wrap things up with another closely related subject I’ve been wanting to write about: JOY!
We can all agree we want lots of Joy in our lives! Why then does it allude so many Christians? Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It is God’s gift to us, but we must choose it. Choosing joy means I surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit. Joy transforms my life and therefore all those I influence, love, parent, etc.
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t important work to be done by each of us. The Bible says as much. One example among many is Ephesians 2:10 (AMP) “ For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” We must remember it is HIS plan, His work for us that matters.
Can I be too busy (doing things that I think I should or want to do) to know what His will is for me? He doesn’t hide it. It’s not a mystery, but it does require me to grow in my relationship with Him, to know Him better and better through concentrated, committed, loving, first priority time with Jesus. To surrender my will to HIm. To listen and obey. To slow down and to rest in Him. Time spent with Jesus is my Joy! My privilege!
In his daily devotional, Michael Youssef, Ph.D. asks, “Who is in charge of your life? Is it God—or is it you? When you say that Jesus is Lord of your life, are you living a life of submission to His lordship—or do you still try to manipulate events to your own advantage?”
My thoughts drifted to the acronym for JOY we’ve all heard: Jesus Others Yourself. It suggests the order our priorities should follow in order to experience JOY. This isn’t all wrong, but it feels as if it’s about me and up to me. It feels like I must acknowledge Jesus, sure, and then really focus on service, performance… others.
I recently heard a different sort of acronym, that I think more accurately reflects the Joy of Christ. The O in JOY becomes representative of zero or nothing. JOY = Let 0 or nothing be between Jesus and Yourself! When we make Jesus our top priority, without a close second, we will experience joy! And He will show us all the works He prepared in advance for us to do. Just don’t be too busy for time alone with Him.
Sometimes it helps keep Godly perspective when we say we have no time for prayer and reading the Bible today, to change the wording from “I’m so busy,” to “Jesus just isn’t my top priority right now, not today.” Ouch.
John Piper said, ”we must fight for joy. We must fight for the relationship that God has called us to. Fight to become the woman filled with joy.” Don’t be too busy to fight.
Matthew 6:33 says it this way, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV) We must not be too busy for God. We mustn’t put our desires or even our good works before Him. If our top priority is God, all the second things in life will be blessed. If God isn’t our first love and our highest joy, nothing else will be quite right.
More to come on Joy and busyness… I’d love to hear your thoughts on both!