Enemy #1: The Badge of Busyness
Ask someone the simple question, “How are you?” and as a reply, you’ll probably hear phrases like “super busy,” “swamped,” “overwhelmed,” and “wish there were more hours in the day.” As a bonus, you might even get a play-by-play rundown of the overbooked calendar, spoken, of course, in an exasperated tone with a heavy sigh. Trust me, I’m stepping on my own toes here. I’ve been this person, and I wish I could go back and slap her silly. My rehearsed speech sounded a little like this: “Life is pretty crazy right now. I’ve got a full speaking calendar this fall, a list of writing deadlines I probably won’t make, the kids ballgames and activities that take up my weekends, and I just volunteered to help chair the silent auction at the kids’ school.” Looking off in the distance with a wistful gleam in my eye, I might even add a wishful, “I look forward to a day when things slow down,” or “I’d give anything to be bored.”
I spoke about my life as if I had absolutely no control over the crazy pace, as if some invisible drill sergeant dictated my calendar and made sure every spare moment was productive and useful. My recounting of the pace of my life might have sounded like a woeful complaint, but there was something else camouflaged underneath—a slight ring of pride. My frenzied, overbooked calendar was becoming the silent proof to others, and to myself, that my life was full and important. Somewhere along the way, busyness had become the barometer for measuring my worth and value. The busier I was, the more I mattered, or at least that’s how I felt.
You might be too busy if:
You struggle to say no when asked to do something, even when you know you don’t have time to add anything to your plate.
You operate at a hurried pace throughout your day.
You have a hard time leaving your work behind, and it often bleeds over into your home life.
You get impatient when things don’t move along as quickly as you’d like.
You feel panicked when unexpected situations threaten to wreck your well-planned day because you have little wiggle room in your schedule.
Even when you are still, your mind is engaged and racing. You don’t easily settle down and relax.
You are short-tempered with your family members, quickly snapping at them when the day’s events don’t seem to click along as planned. (And they rarely do!)
You rarely have “down time,” and you don’t make an effort to schedule it daily or weekly.
You feel rushed in your alone time with God; spending time with Him moves to the bottom of the priority list if your day is too crowded.
You find little time to pursue your hobbies and interests because leisure is a luxury, not a requirement.
You feel guilty when engaging in a relaxing activity (e.g., thumbing through a magazine, watching a favorite show, lingering over lunch with a friend).
Your soul lacks peace.
How did you do?
Even though reading through that list and evaluating your current circumstances can be a painful exercise, you cannot receive healing and rest for your soul unless you do. Most of us have lapsed into this unrealistic pace over time and have told ourselves that little can be done about it. We have been duped by an American culture that demands a frenzied pace as the norm. And in our rush, we never slow down long enough to ponder whether God endorsed the ludicrous pace.
Beneath the Busyness
Why is it hard for so many of us to establish a moderate pace in our lives? If we sincerely want to find relief, we must be willing to take a deeper look at the root of the problem. Whether our busyness is related to our careers, our home life, or a combination of both, what is going on beneath the surface?
Oftentimes our busyness stems from a desperate search for identity and purpose. Similar to throwing endless darts at the wall to see which ones hit the target, we fill our calendars with dozens upon dozens of pursuits to see if we might walk away having discovered our lifelong purpose. No doubt, many of us find our gifts and passions by experimentation and a process of elimination, but our identity and purpose have already been established. In fact, we find our identity and purpose only by resting in God, rather than serving Him. Our identity comes from being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27). Our worth should be based on who we are (God’s beloved), not what we do (serve Him). Rather than follow the crowd and conform to the world’s formula for finding identity and purpose, God calls us to renew our minds and find our worth in Him (Rom. 12:2). We cannot be transformed by the renewing of our minds unless we are willing to be still and meditate on His truths.
Unless we take a deeper look at the source of our chronic busyness and get honest with ourselves about the underlying motives, we will only be treating the symptoms instead of the disease. We might make minor tweaks and adjustments here and there to reduce our load, but until we address the root of the problem, our efforts will only provide a short-term solution.
When we say yes to too many other things, we are actually saying no to God.
Only God can bring the rest and satisfaction our souls crave.
(The above is an excerpt from Rest Assured: A Recovery Plan for Weary Souls)