Busyness

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“Hey! How’s it goin’?”

“I’m good, so good to see you!! How are you?”

“I’m great! It’s good to see you too. You keepin’ busy?”

“Oh my gosh, yes. I’ve got so much going on, I don’t even know where my head is half the time, hahaha…”

We’re pros at being busy. We get busy, we stay busy, we thrive on being busy. We get overwhelmed with the busyness and attempt to clear out our schedules to make our lives a little less noisy and chaotic. Yet, since we’ve been so committed to practicing being busy, we get freaked out at the vacant time we now have, so we fill it with something(s) else. Busyness. It’s glorified in our lives today. It’s looked at as a way to ensure that time is being well spent, and that no minute is spared from being dominated by an outside stimulation. It’s a way of being American. It’s almost become the only way of being at all.  It’s the way of seeming important. It’s the way of validating our lives to other people when they want to get an inside scoop on our daily schedules. As long as we can answer, “Yeah, I’ve been keeping busy,” our existences are justified and we’ve ensured that we aren’t wasting space.

But the thing that happens when we submit to this way of being is that we don’t give room for the opposite of busyness to take effect in our lives…stillness. With busyness comes internal chaos and the compulsion to keep being busy. With stillness comes a myriad of different things, including awareness, discomfort, the opportunity for purposeful decision-making, space for God to speak, space for mysteries to begin to unfold, and maybe the hardest of all, the unchangeable realization that we are alone with ourselves.

A thought occurred to me about a month ago that has haunted me over the following weeks. The thought was this:

“I’m the only person that’s going to be with me 24/7, every single moment, for the rest of my life.

…I better love the decisions I make.”

Giving into the compulsion of staying busy doesn’t give me the opportunity to love the decisions I make because I’ve already allowed busyness to make my decisions for me. In so doing, I’ve relinquished the opportunity to take ownership of making choices with peace and stillness, and loving how I live my life.

In seeking to become more aware, and choosing how to live instead of letting the busy itch take over, I think it’s important to distinguish between being busy and choosing to fill one’s schedule thoughtfully. There is a very big difference between the two. Operating in an “every moment needs to be spent doing something” (busy) mentality is how little bits of anxiety creep in and dominate those precious seconds that could be peaceful and still – moments that could be spent in the presence of God. Operating in an “I care about choosing and living intentionally” mentality allows for moments in-between scheduled obligations to become little pieces of heaven as we direct our attention toward God, allowing him to justify our existence instead of grasping for purpose in an anxious lurch.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." It’s a little jarring to realize the opposite, “Be busy and forget that I am God.”

One way of putting stillness and thoughtful living into practice is to respond to everyday questions differently. When someone asks you, “Are you keeping busy?” How strange would it feel to say, “I’ve got a lot going on, but I’m not busy,” or, “I’m enjoying the things that I’m committed to doing, but I’m not keeping busy.” Or, maybe even just, “Nope!” The times when I have chosen to respond by saying, “No, I’m not busy,” have felt almost bizarre, like I’m willingly admitting to someone else that I don’t have enough going on in my life. But what I’ve noticed when I do respond by saying “No,” is that I am making room for God instead of busyness. I am deciding that in this moment, I am not going to give busyness reign over how I carry myself. Instead of my impulse to be defined by the comfortable reply that makes me feel validated and important, I am going to be defined by the peace of God. This is the peace that tells me, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

During this time of transition from August to September, summer to fall, vacation to school, choose stillness over compulsion. Choose the peace of God over the impulse to fill every moment with outside validation.

Challenge: Before beginning a task or chore, eating a meal, or entering a practice or rehearsal, choose to sit completely still for 3 minutes with no agenda. Keep your eyes as still as you can, and trust that God will fill you in the stillness. Make this a habit.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled …
— John 14:27