If you know me at all, you know I hate busyness. Some folks wear it a like a badge of honor. When you ask someone how they're doing, many will reply, "Busy," as if that's a perfectly normal and healthy response. "Busy" is now synonymous with "okay." To be busy is to be alive. But busyness kills. It sucks the joy right out of the marrow of your life and spits it out and asks for more. Busyness is a form of anorexia that we are all prone to---it tells us that we'll never be enough, we'll never accomplish enough, or we'll never have enough checked off our to do list, even though one honest look in the mirror would tell us that all that is a lie.
Recently, however, I entered into one of the most time-demanding seasons of life. My to-do list tripled in length and scope; the number of meetings jumped; the number of folks looking to me to make key decisions was higher than ever. And so, without my recognizing it at first, I entered into hyper-busyness. It appeared to be the only solution.
But then the busier I got, the worse I got at my job. And not just my job, but also at being a husband, a father, and a decent human being. Busyness has a way of blinding you to your shortcomings; it whispers in your ear that you can, in fact, do Everything. And, perhaps you can. But the Everything that you're doing is being done rough-shod. Haphazardly. And without joy.
When I awoke to this reality, my immediate reaction was "Hurry---stop being Busy!" But here's the trap: I had to add "Stop being busy" to the end of my too-long to-do list. And somehow it kept being pushed to the bottom. When you have too much to do, too many responsibilities, and not enough time, the effort and planning it takes to stop being busy just seems like one more thing.
That reality gives me empathy for all those I know who are currently on the treadmill of busyness. To hear one more sermon or read one more book on the importance of rest, Sabbath, abiding---that isn't helpful. It was just piling on to the busyness list. It takes time to plan on how not to be busy---and time is the one thing busy people don't have.
In John 15, Jesus gives His disciples an analogy of vine and branches to describe His relationship with His disciples. Jesus (who is one with God the Father, and thus the source of all life) is the vine. Jesus' disciples are the branches of the vine. They utterly depend on the vine for life. Jesus then says,
"My Father cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit." Here we see the importance of lives of fruitfulness. It's critical that our lives actually produce something of value in God's Kingdom. If we don't---we have no part of the vine.
But then Jesus says, "Every branch that doesbear fruit the Father prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
If we don't bear fruit, we're cut off from the vine. But if we do bear fruit, we still get the pruning shears? What gives?
Any vinedresser understands the botany of this. Even though you may get fruit on your grapevine the first year, you prune the vine back, the first, second, third years. Then finally the vine is strong enough to bear fruit and sustain it.
But there is a lot of faith involved in this pruning. What if the fruit doesn't came back? What if you prune too far and the vine dies? What if this is your one chance at success?
When we're in the throes of busyness, success, achieving, striving---it seems like the most counterintuitive thing in the world to prune back our lives. To quit something. To say no to an opportunity, a person, a friend.
Pruning back our busyness is an act of faith of the highest order. It's declaring that God is God and we are not. Resting when the rest of the world is working is proclaiming that the world is sustained by God---not by us. Taking a Sabbath, a full 24 hours of rest and joyful relaxation in God's presence, seems like an extravagant indulgence---and that may be exactly the kind of thing that the Father desires for His children.
But, admittedly, it took a three-day retreat to come back to this reality. I had to intentionally set aside time and plan on how not to be so busy. It didn't happen by accident. I didn't stumble into less busyness. I had to make a plan, it took time, and it had to be a priority, not an "If I Get To It" item on my to-do list.
So, if you're currently on the Treadmill of Busyness, first of all, I'm sorry. I'm sorry if I've made you feel guilty about it, or shamed you about it, or tried to add one more thing to your to do list on how not to be busy. Not helpful.
But I'm also glad to tell you it doesn't have to be this way. Yes, unfortunately, it will take work and effort to plan on how not to be so busy. But God is faithful. If you have faith in the pruning, faith that by removing things from your life you will actually be more fruitful, faith that God doesn't desire a life Busyness for you---if you have faith in these things, then you will have what Jesus promised in John 10:10. Not a full life. But an abundant one.