“To be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a Spiritual Discipline.” -Donald S. Whitney
A new year is upon us and we are once again filling out fresh new planners and making exciting new plans. We may have added all the things we dream to do this year and all the things we didn’t get to, last year. You pen in this play date, that meeting, this extracurricular activity, that other extra-curricular activity, this and that and this and that until the schedule is over-full. If you are like many American families the schedule keeps on filling. We feel accomplished to check off lists’a’plenty and we feel we aren’t maximizing our full potential if we do not keep adding to the fattened schedule’s of our lives. Busyness can be an idol of the heart and we know that all idols lie. Whether it is the 21st Century mantra of busyness or the idol of our own heart we can speak truth toourselves to combat the lie of busyness. Christians need not carry this lifestyle that is seen nowhere in the Bible as an example for living well in Christ and through further study is antithetical to Christ’s teachings.
Americans win the prize for busyness, probably not on a global scale but we work more and rest less than most developed nations and the effects of this culture of busyness is literally driving us crazy. Stress and Anxiety levels are rising rapidly and we are all feeling the weight. There are 40 million Americans that are struggling with anxiety and it is not uncommon now to hear of children suffering from stress-induced anxiety. People struggling with anxiety disorder are six times more likely to be hospitalized for a number of Psychiatric problems. What are we doing to ourselves and to our families?
I am not talking about good work. The Bible has given an excellent model of good work as a habit worth having. We see a commandment of a work ethic in Exodus 20, and an example of hard working apostles in Mark 6 but we also see a much-needed habit of rest inspired by the Father himself in inspired sabbath rest. Work is good, it is biblical and it is needed. Work in excess or busyness for the sake of itself is not set forth for us as a model of a good Godly habit. There may be other heart idols in play as well, but these require personal examination. Kevin DeYoung in his book Crazy Busy makes this very astute statement “Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart and your soul are in danger.” This is something that puts us in danger he says. ” This is not a matter of a busy schedule, but busyness is a matter of values”, Paul David Tripp says in Parenting. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. A matter of values.
We avoid the quiet.
We avoid the quiet. Silence is not part of our 21st-century nature. We need rest from chaos, we need time with our thoughts and time to wonder and awe on the good things given us. This is hardly achieved by over-bustling schedules. Ask yourself when was the last time you sat in complete silence with your thoughts with nothing blinking and telling you what to think on any number of issues. If you are a Mom, like me, you probably just laughed out loud, yes, I know that it seems impossible but I promise there are ways to make the time for the stillness our soul’s crave.
Even the way we speak is a testament to our lives. We rarely listen. We don’t listen to ourselves, we don’t listen to others and sadly we aren’t listening to our children. I have seen this in my own life in how I can tune out my kids and get frustrated when they vie for my attention. We need to listen to them, their words hold weight and show us their hearts, how else can we lead them well. I recently listened to a TED podcast about listening that I found very convicting because I can truly say I am a poor listener. Our rush to finish each other sentences, to micro-schedule quick jaunts with friends to check it off the “Good Friend Checklist” as opposed to resting in long conversation and quality time, our need to color others’ speech with our own dialogs makes listening a long-lost habit. More about that another time but Godly restfulness helps us to interact better with our co-inhabitants.
The lie of the idol of busyness. ‘Not enough’. The lie of the idol of busyness is not enough, almost anything. Not enough time, not enough work, not enough education, not enough qualifications, not enough extra-curriculars, not enough fun, not enough activities, not enough socializing, not enough . It says “you aren’t doing enough” and in our society of work ultimacy that is a statement on your being, “You are not being enough”, so you must “Do more” to be “Be more”. The one truth in this lie is that we are not enough. Because that it is true, we aren’t. Where the truth gets twisted is that we can be enough in our own rights by doing “all the things” and doing them better than everyone else. We must combat our Not-Enoughness with more truth and not more schedules.
David Mathis in Habits of Grace says ” We are humans, not machines. We were made for rhythms of silence and noise, community and solitude.” We need the balance of both.
So, what can we do to combat busyness?
Firstly, turn toward the Word. Look at your life and your schedule in comparison to the examples set for us. Ask yourself, “Does this resemble the habits of grace I see in the Scripture? Then if the answer is, “No”, pray and ask yourself where it went wrong and ask God for clarity. This is something that we are learning to do ourselves, in my family, often. You see, I am one of those statistics above and am thankful that God has been teaching my heart to rest in Him. It’s like any habit, it a process.
Practically, though, in addition to prayer you may want some suggestions. I am no expert but these things have helped me greatly:
- -Pray about your Schedule, match it up to Scripture, pray for wisdom and discernment.
- -Cut the Fat. You prayerfully need to do this with your spouse, if you have one, and it might even need some discussions with children, as well, about their priorities. Cut all non-essentials, all the things that are not wanted and then examine what is truly needed. The matter of need and want is your own personal heart decision, so the prayer for discernment helps. It is a like a bandaid being ripped, the pain of it will be over soon and you will heal.
- As an example a few years ago with only one child in activities, but still being quite overwhelmed, we prayerfully decided to allow only one activity outside of the home so we had a conversation about what she would choose. She chose dance and has been faithfully focusing on that one activity for several years. Look into alternatives for the things you don’t want to lose, things that your children can pursue independently at home.
- -Protect your Schedule. This is simple. Every week pray about your schedule and protect it. Keep it safe, examine every new thing that pops up with “Will this be fruitful?”, and once you begin to do this you will actually have more time for the organic and non-scheduled community that forms in our lives. Give yourself grace room, room to breathe and room to engage with others. One way we do this , personally, is by keeping our afternoons free and unscheduled. This allows my children time that isn’t school and time that isn’t scheduled to do what they choose to. **I will say as an aside that this does not mean TV, as a personal decision we have one Movie Night and Saturday TV only.** This is more what we call occupations, things they would like to pursue that do not require a guiding hand. For young ones, block building, for older ones, handicrafts or journaling, leisure reading etc. For mom putting the baby down and reading a book for a few moments or having a cup of tea. In addition, we only have one night a week that is reserved for outside-the-home activities for children.
- -Make habits of restful enjoyment such as take up writing a diary, or journaling or a quiet hobby or reading more. Things that require a little more attention than checklists and iPhone reminders. These habits help slow our minds and let us know what is really in our hearts.
To conclude, know that busyness although a very real and apparent part of our lives is not the example we are shown for living. We can work well in it’s own time and rest well in it’s own time.