Why is busy okay?

Over the weekend I was with a group of ladies and we were pondering together how to be still in the midst of the noisiness and demands of life. Living un-busy is counter-cultural as my friend discovered during her trip to the dentist yesterday. She was greeted with, "Hi, Keeping busy?" to which she automatically replied yes.

But after our weekend of pondering what rest and stillness might actually do to bring life and meaning to our worlds, she realized the awkwardness of this familiar phrase of greeting: She writes her questions spurred on by the encounter: "Is keeping busy the equivalent to doing fine, and if I'm not keeping busy, does that mean I'm not doing well?" Seemingly, according to the cultural norm, yes.

As she talked about her musings with the dentist, the dentist replied (somewhat wistfully), "You know, in all the times I've asked people that, the answer's always the same!"

Brenda continued: "I told her that I'd recently been reminded of the importance of resting, to which she nodded sympathetically and then launched into how she is a workaholic and if she took time off wouldn't know what to do with herself, etc."

Unfortunately, not much is different in the church and in our ministries. Busy is worn as a badge of honor - perhaps because my ego is too frail and has to live off the appearance of doing significant things. Un-busy feels lazy - even when I am doing the good and right and best things of caring for my family and my soul so that I can continue to pour out to others. I know in my head this is not how God measures my significance, but there is an underlying compulsion to produce, to prove and to render acceptable my life by what I do.

Eugene Peterson, in his book the Contemplative pastor, writes about this: "The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterze a wife or embezzler to characterize a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront" (17).

The un-ing of my life continues - un-busying because if I cannot say no, what does that say about my yeses?

Anyone else encounter this?


Paula GambleComment