"How are you?" they ask. "Busy," I reply.
You say it too. "My schedule is crazy!" "I'm super busy." "I've got too much to do."
In his book, The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson gives two reasons why pastors become busy. I believe they apply to all people. I reread Peterson's book annually, and these two statements continue to convict me. They are my yearly "check-up," and help me to refocus my time and energy.
I am busy because I'm vain.
"I'm busy," is the new badge of honor in our society. If time is our most valuable asset, then saying my schedule is full is to say that I am extraordinarily valuable.
We want to be needed.
The heavy demands, says Peterson, are proof to ourselves, and to others, that we are worth something. This feeds our vanity. The irony is that we often fill our schedules with unimportant clutter. Our valuable time is spent doing cheap things.
My Psalm for the week is 127. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Ps. 127:1). We can toil, sweat, and schedule away. But if we're working out of vanity, our time and energy is wasted.
We can ask God to bless what we're building. Or we can ask, "God, what are you building? And how can I get in on it?" His work and his will are the opposite of vanity. His purposes are always fruitful and eternal.
I am busy because I'm lazy.
Peterson describes how we lose touch with who we are and what we're supposed to be about. We lazily, or ignorantly, let other people's demands and expectations define our calendars.
Peterson writes, "By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone."
An example is the increasing pressure for kids to be in every sport or activity. There is a sense among parents that if my child isn't doing back-flips in gymnastics by age 4, they'll fall behind everyone else. So we sign up for every session, every night of the week.
Because someone told us that endless activity is essential to success, we say "yes" to eating hurried Happy Meals in the minivan on the way to practice from 5:00-7:00. And we say "no" to our real values, like family meal time. Too often we deny the dinner table - the laughter, the joking, the asking about one's day, free from rush and stress.
This doesn't mean we aren't active, or that we don't work hard.
It does mean that we continue to confess the vanity of our heart. And we strive to be exceptional stewards of the precious time God has given us.
What are your values and goals?
How do they guide your decisions?
How do they show up in your calendar?