I Glorify Busy
Over the summer, Pastor Eric and his family were able to enjoy an eight-week sabbatical. In this two-part series, he reflects on two truths he learned during his sabbatical. In these posts, Pastor Eric invites you to consider how his experience might apply to your life as well.
I Glorify Busy
As long as I can remember, I’ve been busy. Growing up, child labor laws didn’t mean much in a small town of rural Nebraska. During the summer, I started working on a farm 40 hours a week when I was in 4th grade. Before I passed drivers education, I went to a tractor safety course and received a license to drive a tractor when I was 13 years old. I wish that was a joke. Summer evenings were spent conditioning and lifting weights at the school gym. Summers were not a break. During the school year, I played varsity football, basketball and ran track from middle school through high school. I was also part of National Honor Society and played the saxophone in band. I went to church twice on Sunday and Wednesday night and also attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes. My parents didn’t force these things. I chose these things. I wanted to do all of these things.
For me, busyness never stopped. I was just as busy in college and even more busy cramming four years of full-time seminary into three years while also working. All of this happened before I was married. I didn’t have a full-time job. I didn’t have a mortgage to pay or a furnace to fix. I didn’t have raccoons rolling up my sod for two months (long story). I didn’t have an iPhone and hardly anybody emailed me. I wasn’t a pastor. I didn’t have two kids, a dog, a cat or seven fish to feed and keep alive. I’ll be honest, I care much less about the cat and I have no clue how many fish we actually have.
On most days, my responsibilities, ambitions and goals add up to more than I can handle. When someone asks me how I’m doing, the first words that fly out of my mouth are, “Good… I’m busy.” Yet inside I cringe every time I say this. This isn’t what I want.
What am I doing? When will I get my life under control? How did I get so busy?
For as long as I can remember when I wake up, my day starts at zero and by the end of the day I have this nagging sense I have to attain something. Years of ambition, activity and accomplishments have wrapped around my heart. My busyness is like a sickness.
This summer, our elders gave me and my family a sabbatical. After ten years of ministry, I was given eight weeks off of work. The last time I had eight consecutive weeks with zero responsibilities was when I was nine years old. This was my summer of 3rd grade when the only thing I had all week was an hour-long swimming lesson. Life has changed.
It's A Heart Problem
On my Sabbatical, I realized my busyness is not an issue of time management. My problem is deeper than poor planning, scheduling or decision making. It’s a heart problem. Something has to change… scratch that. I have to change. Just like in high school, I chose this. Nobody makes me busy. I want to be busy.
Over the last four months, I learned something I didn't expect. I don’t know how else to say this, so here it is… I glorify busy. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s true.
Secretly, in my heart, I discovered a strange thing during my sabbatical. I love being busy. It’s a paradox. My mind hates busy yet my heart loves busy. In this tug-of-war my heart usually wins out and my default is busy. Why am I busy? The problem lies in me.
Here are eight observations I have made in my pursuit of understanding why I’m busy:
- I like to receive validation and affirmation.
- I like to overestimate my importance.
- I like to prove myself in my accomplishments.
- I place my list of priorities over people.
- I place my identity in the things that I do.
- It’s easy to avoid the things I don’t want to do.
- It’s easy to justify a weak prayer life and rushed devotions.
- It’s easy to neglect the hard work of marriage and parenting.
This sickness of being crazy busy is more than learning a few tips on time management. It’s bigger than poor planning and overscheduling. It’s worse than overcommitting. At the root of "glorifying busy" is a mindset and heart issue that needs immediate attention. It’s time to get to the source of the issue and pull the problem out by the roots.
Here are eight questions to help diagnose if you share the same busy-sickness that I do:
- Do you regularly work thirty minutes longer than your contracted hours?
- Do you constantly check your phone at home for work emails or messages?
- Has anyone ever said, “I didn’t want to bother you because I know you're busy”?
- Do your family or friends drop hints or say they don’t get enough time with you?
- If your plans for tomorrow night were suddenly canceled, would you use this time to catch up on work, run errands or dive into your list of household chores?
- Do you crawl into bed exhausted and wake up feeling tired the next day?
- Do you have restful activities built into your schedule?
- Do you regularly eat together as a family?
During this summer, God was working in me to expose my heart-problem of busyness. Two months after sabbatical, I am beginning to reel back my busyness. This starts with being more self-aware. I am less scattered, frazzled, frantic and boundary-less. I am also accountable. My biggest realization—I no longer think I can do it all.
If I say, “I’m busy” the next time you ask how I’m doing, you have permission to slap me. Words come from the overflow of our hearts, and I don’t want the word “busy” to be part of my vocabulary because it reveals my heart reality. It’s time to stop glorifying busy.
If busyness is a struggle for you, I highly recommend this resource: