Spiritual Growth

Busy is Not Bad

It had been a long day. My pregnant body ached from preparing three square meals, getting up and down to play with my toddler, and any movement in general. I was mentally exhausted from the hour of work I was able to squeeze in during naptime, and now, at 4:00pm, I was done.

So when my daughter asked me to build and get under a “fork” (a blanket fort, for those of you who don’t speak toddler), I was hesitant to oblige. But she kept persisting, so I laid the blanket over the couch and ottoman and squeezed my pregnant belly into the space in between. For some reason, she didn’t want to join me, so she continued to play with her Little People on the coffee table while I sat on the ground under a pink fluffy blanket.

To be honest, I didn’t mind. It was the first time that day I had slowed down. I didn’t have anything I needed to do, and there was nowhere I needed to be. I just sat there and let my body, mind, and (most importantly) my spirit un-wind. I breathed in the stale fort air and enjoyed the quiet.

In that still moment, I was reminded of Susanna Wesley (mother of the famous British pastors, John and Charles Wesley) whom it is said would sit down and place her apron over her head when her children were overwhelming her. They knew in that moment that their mother was taking time away to pray and ask God for strength and peace. In the chaotic moments of her day, Susanna would stop and realign her heart with God in the quiet of her apron fort.

Even in the midst of a quarantine, life is still busy. Meals still have to be made (even more now). A toddler still needs to be played with (especially without the advantage of other playdates or activities). A house still needs to be cleaned and work still needs to be accomplished. Busy-ness is just a part of the human experience. Even Adam and Eve in the garden would have been busy with their God-given task of tending to the animals and plants.

Busy-ness migrates to hurry when we let it squeeze God out of our lives.

John Ortberg

Yet I have come to learn that there is a difference between busy-ness and hurriedness. John Ortberg in his book, Soul Keeping, writes that “Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul. It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I am unable to be fully present with God, with myself, and with other people. Busy-ness migrates to hurry when we let it squeeze God out of our lives.”

In that exhausting day I mentioned above, I was feeling the fatigue of hurry. I had run from task to task, focused only on what was in front of me (and the three tasks to be done next) and not on the God and the people that were surrounding me. My meal prepping was devoid of thankfulness for groceries. My work was not done with God’s glory in mind. Playing with my toddler was done out of duty, not delight in God’s gift of children.

Now, we don’t have to turn into Mary Poppins singing “spoon full of sugar” as you tidy your home to have peace amidst a busy life. No, we don’t need her positivity and magic. Instead, as we stay busy in our homes or out of our homes, we can “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” as Dallas Willard has said. While our outwards responsibilities and circumstances fill our day planner, we can let the peace of God fill our hearts instead.

While our outwards responsibilities and circumstances fill our day planner, we can let the peace of God fill our hearts instead.

How do we do this? I believe it first takes a sense of gratitude for the tasks God has placed in our hands. Paul reminds believers, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). There is a connection between peace and thankfulness. I do my work differently when I see it as a laborious obligation instead of a God-given privilege to walk in the work for which he created me.

Secondly, we work prayerfully. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Continuous prayer guards our hearts and minds from the hurried tendencies of the flesh. Instead of leaning on our own knowledge and ability, we are constantly reminding ourselves of our dependence on God. You can create a series of daily touchpoints, such as every time you clean dishes at the sink or return to your desk or get in your car. Every time you do one of these mundane activities, you can use it as a reminder to pray and realign yourself with God and his peace.

Continuous prayer guards our hearts and minds from the hurried tendencies of the flesh.

The key I have found most helpful in my own busy life is focus. So many times, I am exhausted because I was trying to do too many things at once. I try writing an email while at the same time playing a game with my daughter. I grocery shop while also texting women from my discipleship group. I have a conversation with my husband while also scrolling through social media. When we split our hearts and minds across tasks, we aren’t multi-tasking. We’re really not fully accomplishing any one task. I have found that when I focus my full heart, mind, and body on playing with my toddler, I find way more joy in it than if I’m also trying to fold the laundry. Later, I can postpone answering an email until I can give it my full attention, instead of trying to also keep dinner from burning. God created us with mental, physical, and emotional limits. We honor God in our work when we work within those limits and trust his limitlessness to cover everything we can’t.

We honor God in our work when we work within our limits and trust his limitlessness to cover everything we can’t.

Busy-ness is not bad. In fact, I’ve learned to praise God for the good gifts and callings that keep me busy. But instead of taking the tasks on my own shoulders, letting hurry rule in my heart, I am learning to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, knowing that God does not intend for me to carry out these callings on my own. One of the most encouraging verses is Paul’s description of his ministry to the church, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). God gave man and woman the gift of work in the garden, and even into eternity we will be cultivating the ground he has given to us. But we don’t just work in our own power, but through his supernatural empowerment. We are busy at work, but we are not hurried, because our God is at work, too.

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