By Beth Demme
I think it was Kurt Vonnegut who first said, “I am a human being, not a human doing.” In a society where busyness is a sign of accomplishment and significance, it’s easy to blur the lines between being and doing. It seems like we do more to have more because we want to be more.
James 1:11 warns against this, saying “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.”
Busyness can be costly.
In the midst of a busy life, the parts of us that matter most can wither away. I know from personal experience. I have tried to do more and have more because I wanted to feel like I could be more. Instead of becoming more, I became less. I replaced my true identity (a beloved child of God) with a cheap imitation identity (busy American mom).
The really tricky part of this for me as a Christian was realizing that church could produce busyness. If I had been trying to create an equation to calculate my busyness I wouldn’t have included church committees or Bible study classes in the calculation. They had a sort of permanent exemption because I put them under the heading “God’s Work.”
Good distractions are still distractions.
Attending Bible study classes and serving in the church are important to me. They are really valuable in my spiritual life, except when they become busyness that distracts me from real relationship with God.
This is the lesson of Mary and Martha, isn’t it? When Jesus visited the two sisters, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks.” (Luke 10:39-40) Martha asked Jesus to make her sister help out, but instead, Jesus answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.”
Like Martha, I tend to be distracted by my many tasks. I can be so distracted I don’t even realize I’m giving up an opportunity to sit with Jesus.
As Ruth Haley Barton explains in her book Sacred Rhythms, we sacrifice our experience of the fullness of God because “[w]e cling to some sense that we are indispensable and that the world cannot go on without us even for a day… This is a grandiosity that we indulge to our own peril.”
Busyness and abundance are not the same thing.
It may be possible to live a life that is both busy and abundant, but we make a mistake if we think they are synonymous.
Jesus says he came to be our shepherd so that we could have an abundant life, or as it says in The Message paraphrase, “more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of.” Another translation says “a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10)
I’m learning that an abundant life is a lived in dependence rather than a life lived independently. The comfort of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” only comes if I’m willing to live in dependence on my shepherd.
When I am with my shepherd, not distracted by my many tasks,
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
When I am with my shepherd, “my cup overflows” and “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” If I am distracted by my many tasks, I risk missing out on this true abundance and, as James warns, I wither away.
Do you live a life of abundance? What’s your secret? Are you, like me, one who tends to be distracted by many tasks? Do green pastures and still waters sound as wonderful to you as they do to me? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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