Thursday, April 21, 2005

Keeping You Busy

My life is about to get busy again.

The way my life works is that I pastor a small church, twelve months a year. There is plenty for me to do day in and day out, but technically I am a part-time pastor. Then during the warm-weather months I work for our family business. That job takes most all of my Tuesdays and Wednesdays and some other time during the week as well. Combining those hours with the hours I put in as a pastor makes me a little more on edge, a little more tired at the end of the day, a little more disorganized -- if that is at all possible. The days can be scheduled so thick that it seems like all I'm doing is running from one place to another, with no time to devote to my own Christian walk. Already the extra phone calls have started and the additional trips driving the kids around are mounting up.

I ran into a quote that Anne Lamott attributes to a Buddhist friend of hers, Jack Kornfield. (To a Midwestern boy, the name "Kornfield" doesn't look Buddhist, but I'm going to take Lamott's word for it!) Anyway, the line is something like, "If the Devil can't get you to sin, he'll keep you busy." Quite the nugget of wisdom from a Buddhist. It's the opposite of our old standby, "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop." But Kornfield's idea seems to capture an important truth: our busyness can keep us not only from evil, but also from good. After all, sin is divided into two parts: sins of comission (doing something wrong) and sins of omission (not doing something right). And one of the best ways to keep from doing something that will bring joy and comfort to someone else is to be too busy.

What is it about us that makes us think we're supposed to be so busy? Are we afraid of being called a slacker? I've never heard anyone called a slacker -- lazy, maybe, but never a slacker. Is that it? Is busyness the standard to which we hold ourselves to in order to look good to others? Or is it a matter of telling ourselves how important we must be; after all we sure have a lot of things to do. "Somebody unimportant certainly wouldn't have so many demands on his or her schedule as I do, hence I am important!" Somewhere we've gotten the idea that our daytimers and our Palm Pilots must have all the spaces filled in. But what do we miss when we are so busy?

Well for starters, we miss the opportunity to do something good for someone else. You know, things like helping someone whose car has broken down, visiting a friend in the hospital or an older person who is really feeling lonely. Those random acts of kindness are service to others, which God sees as service to Him. Remember when Jesus told the one about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25? The sheep are all herded together and the master tells them that they are being rewarded for giving him food, water, clothes and essentially doing good things for him. The sheep look at each other dumbfounded and finally ask, "When did we do all that for you?" And the master said, "Whatever you did for those who needed it, you did it for me." That should give us a great indication of those little good deeds mean -- to others and to our Heavenly Father. But if we're too busy...

The other thing that busyness does to us is that it keeps our focus squarely upon ourselves. Our appointments, our schedule, our interests; they drive us so hard that we simply don't see the people who need a ride or a meal or some companionship. We think we can't let up, but the truth is we have to let up or commit those sins of omission.

The busy schedule seems glamorous to some. Being busy implies that we are powerful, indispensible and important. Actually it means that we may be biting off more than we can chew, especially if we want to serve God by serving those around us.

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