The Idol of 'Busy'
"I just don't know how she does it!"
Whenever I hear this in conversation, I react in one of two ways. If the 'she' in question is somebody else, I'm immediately jealous. Why is she so in demand? How can she be managing so much, so successfully? Is she doing as much as I am?
If the 'she' is me, I react with mixed feelings of panic and pride. Panic that I'm not actually coping very well deep inside, and pride at the thought that I'm still managing to convey a pretty put-together, competent image to everyone else.
For being busy is code for being 'wanted'. For being talented and competent enough that you are called upon to be involved in lots of different things. Culturally, a busy life represents success. If you're busy with academic work, you look intelligent. If you're busy with never ending social engagements, you look popular. If you're busy with sports or music, you look talented. Right?
So, what are you doing when you're not busy?
This question rocks me a little. Without the excuse of busyness, my life somehow seems to lack purpose. Being 'busy' gives me the perfect excuse for all the things I don't do, while allowing me to self project an image of competence and success.
God has been teaching me lots of lessons about this over the years. At my school, academic success was the ultimate goal. Perhaps being surrounded by children of academics skewed my judgement a little, but intelligence was fiercely prized and good grades were everything. Success came when all five of my university offers rolled in, placing me right up there with all the other Oxbridge 'successfuls'.
When results day came, I was devastated to find out that I had missed my grades for my top choice. It shook up all my carefully formed plans and I was angry at God for seemingly giving me one perfect option for my future and taking it away again. What about all my hard work, my commitment, my busyness?
In this full-circle journey of excitement and disappointment, I was taught a few important lessons:
1. God gives and takes away: every good gift is from Him.
2. He is sovereign, His plan is perfect.
3. Busyness must be God-centred, not self-centred.
Forgetting the fundamental truth that I must be part of God’s big plan rather than trying to form my own little plans is the real reason behind the mix of panic and pride that comes from idolising a busy life. Panic because I’m not created to do things in my own strength, because I’m not designed to find my value in my works. Pride because it's corruptive to live a life that's inwardly-focused rather than Heavenly-focused. Ephesians 3:20 says:
"Now to Him, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us."
See? It's all about Him. This is why the 'busy' life is a particularly dangerous one if we put ourselves at the centre.
It's good to explore our gifts, to have ambition and to have a passion for your God-given purpose in this life. But it must be in recognition of the God who gave us the gifts, the God who gives us strength for each day.
So...I challenge you to remember where your gifts and talents come from. To give glory to God in the ways you use them, to be continually thankful for the blessings He pours out.
To remember that your identity and purpose must be God-given, God-driven. Jesus gave his life for us so that we may be children of God. Nothing we could ever do will change that in the slightest. Isn't that an attractive kind of freedom?
I challenge you to rest. To honour the God that honours rest.
Rest is built into the Ten Commandments, it is fundamentally built into the creation of the universe. And how many times do we see Jesus encouraging his disciples to rest, to escape the crowds and the commitments and spend some time with their Father. When you honour rest, you are making a statement that you trust in a God who is bigger than any of the stresses and strains of this world. When you rest you are committing your time up to God, trusting in His plan above your own.
I'm still very bad at this, and I so often forget that I have a God so much bigger than my day-to-day worries and commitments. But it's such a comfort to me to know that I don't have to live by my own strength; I can rely on the source of all strength, the giver of all good things, the peace my soul needs.