Busy busy busy busy
How are you? ‘Busy!’ we reply, with a sigh and shoulder shrug to emphasize exhaustion.
But you know what? Secretly, we sort of like it. Because being busy in our culture means we are important. As a friend of mine once said, she has to be ‘useful,’ like on Thomas the Train, because the conductor throws away engines that aren’t useful onto the scrap heap.
We value our days based on how many things we’ve accomplished. Got our list checked off, it’s a good day. Couldn’t do anything at all because the baby was sick and wanted held? Not a good day. We value our days for work done, and our years, and our lives.
We answer a question about our self, our being–how are you?–with a description of our activities.
We become human-doings, not human-beings.
The military thrives on this principle—prove your worth by listing off what you’ve accomplished to get promoted. I’m frequently jealous of my husband’s OER. I’d like to be recognized for all my line items and have the stamp of approval—above mass!
I was at a farewell coffee recently and heard myself say to the ladies, ‘oh, you will be missed, you do so much for us!’ The words went bitter in my mouth. These ladies were friends. I wasn’t going to miss them just because now I’d have to help in the nursery and clean up after potluck. I was going to miss them because they are beautiful images of God. They were fun to be with. They cried with me over my childrens’ struggles. They prayed with me over our husbands. That’s why I was going to miss them.
We teach this to our children too. They quickly learn that to be important is to be busy. We model a life of being overwhelmed. Another friend of mine pointed out she doesn’t want her daughter thinking motherhood is stressful and miserable. Do we model that?
Tim Hansel cut to the quick in the book “When I Relax I Feel Guilty”: “Our prayer life becomes only a time to ask God to do things for us, so that we can be better workers for him. The purpose and privilege of simply ‘knowing him and enjoying him forever’ is considered unproductive. Our marriages slide quietly into what we can do for each other—the husband becoming a lawn mower and garbage remover, and the wife only keeping the house clean and the kids quiet. Children’s usefulness is unclear, and in a culture infatuated with practicality, kids begin to see themselves as worthless. Friends are recognized as opportunities, and therefore a justifiable expenditure of time. And religion becomes a pattern of rules and regulations, a system that helps us tidy up our behavior, somewhat like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…”
Perhaps it would help us to take a good hard look at why we are so busy.
—Do I need to control things? Am I not letting others help or take over because I want it done my way? Or am I afraid of failure if things aren’t done to perfection?
—Do I base my self-worth on what I can accomplish?
—Am I trying to please people?
—Am I more interested in rules than relationships? Do I help out at chapel so I don’t have to talk to people? Do I keep the house spotless, working late into the night, so I don’t have to be intimate with my husband?
Honestly, being busy is killing us, body and spirit. May we have the courage to do a gut-check on how busy the Lord would have us be.