when busyness becomes an idol

over the past couple of months, i have had more time than i have had in years. maybe ever. time to spend how i choose — to waste or to dedicate to what i find worthy at the moment. as someone who truly “thrives” on multi-tasking and doing things under pressure, you can imagine what a surprise (and disappointment) this research was to read. this quote summarizes the gist succinctly: “Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.” ouch. apparently it also makes you dumber. like an 8-year old child dumb. no offense to 8-year old children, but i was hoping to have surpassed you a bit at this stage in life.

anyways, i have been thinking a lot about busyness recently. how there is this pressure to say yes to hundreds of commitments, to spend your time frivolously, to go until your body or mind gives out because it needs a break. i have experienced this first-hand for years. i’m all about serving and giving of yourself generously — giving your time and energies and passions to worthwhile things. but i have this image in my mind of us from heaven, rushing around furiously “serving god” by overexerting and overcommitting ourselves. too much in a rush to spend time with god (not for, with) or say hello to our neighbor or to think clearly (we’re all 8-year olds demanding we can keep this pace). we are the multi-tasking generation — much too important to slow down or to dial back where we think we’re needed. we have overinflated sense of selves where we have become necessary in every position at every level. we need to be the mentor and discipler. we need to be the worker and the volunteer. we need to go, go, go until we crash and burn. and aren’t we all feeling a little burned out? almost every person i know my age is experiencing this. we have this very noble desire to serve god in multiple capacities but it often leaves our lives fragmented, our relationships fractured. what does it say about us that we don’t trust god to rest?

“six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.”  exodus 23:12

i have found in this season an unexplainable peace. peace that comes with the presence of jesus, yes, but also a mind and heart that has been allowed quietness and rest. notice in exodus 23:12, it clearly promotes work — work six out of seven days — but it also puts value and importance on being refreshed. maybe your formula isn’t six-out-of-seven. maybe it is four-out-of-five or ten-out-of-eleven — i don’t know. i think it depends greatly on your temperament and capacity. i think it depends on your season and calling. i think it depends on the holy spirit’s nudgings and your willingness to follow in obedience. anything else is sinful. if you think your church or organization or PTA or friends can’t carry on without you, you’re wrong. if god desires you to recuperate and to be refreshed, he will fill in the gaps. you will need to honor your commitments and follow through — this is why it’s critical to constantly evaluate and adjust your capacity to serve in a certain season. it’s difficult for me to say no to helping with something when i TECHNICALLY have the time or ability to do something. i want to be of service and i want to be available. however, the wisest thing is not always your knee-jerk reaction. example: there is a ministry in town that needed volunteers to be paired with girls in particularly difficult situations. Being their friend was the main goal. i felt it a worthy cause and one i felt deeply about. i wanted to help be a part of bringing healing to them through a friendship where god may use me. instead, i committed then realized over the next few weeks that it really wasn’t realistic at that time in my life. so instead of being a blessing to these girls, i became a burden for the coordinator who thought she had a position filled. it would have been better for me to trust that god would fill that position with someone else who cared deeply AND had the capacity and time to invest. I could instead dedicate my time to praying for them.

“you shall have no other gods before me. you shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. you shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” exodus 20:3-5

why is this such a problem? i think because it says more about our allegiance to created things or creatures, than to our creator. we are committed to committing. we are people-pleasers and man-fearers. we want to look good, to have it all, to do it all, and to not need to rest in the process. this is surely ungodly. jesus, whether serving his 12 or serving thousands, stole away to rest and spend time with the father. the need for serving or healing did not take precedence. we can assuredly use jesus as our measuring stick. did jesus work his ass off (his donkey…)? yes. did he serve in inconvenient and unconventional ways? yes — he made time for zacchaeus in the tree (without having it put in his planner by his assistant first), he stopped to speak truth to the woman at the well, wearied though he was (without having schedule a conference near that well) — he was diligent to work and serve, often without agenda but he also made time for god to show up to him personally.

“but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” luke 5:16

notice the key word “often”. would it be said of your life that you “often” withdraw and pray to god? that in the midst of the busyness and business, you would put a priority on time with the one that restores you beside still waters, the one that gives rest to your soul? if not, maybe there is a problem. a problem with the maximization of our capabilities and minimization of god’s. perhaps we think our power too great and god’s too small. i am wildly guilty of this. i put so much emphasis on my abilities to “multi-task” (which, apparently, even according to non-religious sources means i’m as dumb as an 8-year old), that i go weeks or months without giving my soul rest and giving myself over to the lord. but friends, this is the only way. you can learn to say no to overcommitting with confidence in your creator’s supreme sovereignty to keep the world spinning while you rest.

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2 thoughts on “when busyness becomes an idol

  1. On His Blindness
    By John Milton

    When I consider how my light is spent
    Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide
    Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest he returning chide,
    “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
    I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
    Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and wait.”

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