"I'm too busy to stop."
"How's it going?" "It's good. Busy, but good." You've said it too, haven't you? It has become our immediate response when people ask us how things are going. It becomes an expected disclaimer when people come to you and feel the need to say, "I know you're busy, but..." And let's be honest, we often use our own busyness as an excuse. It's our great escape button we push when we want to avoid a certain task, when we want to push back a difficult conversation, when we want to delay returning a phone call, when we want to not waste time on visiting that person, when we feel unproductive so we say it to give the appearance (and maybe sense) of accomplishment, and countless other reasons.
Forgive me, but it is just time for a universal disabling of the excuse button. For most people I have talked with, busyness seems to be just another word for normal life. The reality is we are all busy...sometimes too busy to stop and ask us a really important question: Is busyness what God intended for our lives to be about? Does God just want us to always being doing something? Does God always want our to-do lists to be full? Does God want us to just stay busy?
It was the great missionary William Carey who once said, "I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter." It could just as easily be said, "I'm not afraid of being busy. I am afraid of being busy at things that don't matter. There is nothing wrong with working hard or being busy. In fact, the Bible is full of warnings against idleness and commands to work hard. It is really important we examine what it is that makes us busy, if what we are doing is worthy be being, and if we are sinfully using busyness as an excuse because of ________ (insert: pride, avoiding responsibility, laziness, etc.).
What can we do then? If we all really are going to be busy, how can we be busy about the thing with things that matter? How can we examine what we are doing?
The reality is you make time for the things you love. Don't believe me? Would you rather spend 10 hours working on your taxes or binge-watching the second season of Flash on Netflix? Well, it depends on what you love. If you love numbers and a nice return (or staying out of jail), you'll want to do your taxes. For the rest of us, well...you have already stopped reading this blog to sit on the couch and get Netflix up. The reality is you will make time for the things you love and you will prioritize your time for those things. The problem so often is our priorities are out of whack and our schedules are out of control.
We need to prioritize our time for the things that are worth loving. I'm not arguing it's bad to watch TV, but it is if you've spent zero time in the Word, with your family, or serving others. Let's make it our goal then if we are going to be busy, let's be busy for the things worth loving. Let's get busy loving Jesus, loving others, loving our family, loving our neighbor. I wonder what our schedules look like if we reoriented them based around what brings honor to God and good of others. To do this, it is going to begin with writing some things out. Write out some musts for your schedule. Things you love too much (or should) to not miss out. Write out some wants for your schedule. If there is time, then you'd like to include them. Write out some things you know you can cut out of your schedule. Where are you waisting time on important things?
I am thoroughly convinced so much time is wasted in our lives because we do not plan. One of the most important times in my week is the time I sit down with my wife on Sunday evenings and my staff on Monday mornings to make plans. To not have a plan will result in busyness doing things that don't matter. It is really important to plan well. Everyone is different in how they plan (using technology, using a daily paper planner, or, like me, post-it notes. Lots of post-it notes). How you plan is not so much important as making actual plans. Making good plans includes being flexible when things do not go the way you wanted. I can usually tell who are slaves to their plans/busyness by how they respond to change or when things go wrong.
It may seem counterproductive to spend time in prayer when you're already fighting to find time for sleep (although sometimes praying leads to finding time to sleep). Prayer is an important part of staying busy at the right things and has a significant impact on how you accomplish your plans. The reformer Martin Luther has notably said, "I have so much to do today that I'm going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done." Prayer helps us to be busy at the right things because we cannot accomplish anything worthy in our life without God's grace and help. It is He who has given us our lives to steward and use for His purposes. We might be busy, but we must never be too busy to pray.
If it didn't seem counterproductive enough to spend time in prayer, you're going to think I'm crazy for telling you to hit the pause button. I mean, who has time to just stop and relax? There is just too much to do. We all need rest at times and if you are not careful to take a pause, God sometimes forces a pause for you. It is important when it comes to your life and busyness to take a moment of rest. Pastor Bob Thune once said, "Problems and to-do lists never go away. So you have to go away" (my paraphrase). When is the last time you've gone away? Nothing fancy. It doesn't have to be a road trip to a cabin in Gatlinburg. It could be as simple as taking a walk, a long shower, a day off, a car ride with no radio, or even just simply turning off your phone (another post for another day).
We're all busy. The cat is out of the bag. The question is: Are you living your life in a way that you've been busy with the things that matter or the things that don't matter? Are you taking the time to examine your schedule? Are you taking time to rest and pray? Let's get busy doing the right things!