A Balanced Life: I'm not busy


I wrote last week on how I've spent the past year developing a work-life balance . I know that sometimes work isn't the problem; sometimes life is the problem and it's hard to find balance between spouses, kids, church involvement, volunteer work, and our relationship with God. 

A few weeks ago, DJs on a radio station I listen to were talking about this idea of busyness and one of the DJs mentioned part of this quote by Eugene Peterson: 
"I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself - and to all who will notice - that I am important... busyness is the enemy of spirituality... It's filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God's actions." 
It's a long quote. Read it twice if you have to. Every word in the first part describes my heart. Every word in the second part strikes me with conviction. 

I was the girl in high school and college who had a planner jam packed with activities, tests, and meetings. Part of it was that I had a lot of assignments to keep track of and I was involved in {probably too many} sports and organizations. But a very large part of the jam packed planner was that I loved love being busy and I seem to thrive during the times where I am constantly going 24/7. I used to love it when people looked at my planner and made a comment like, "Wow, you're so busy; how do you do it all?" I didn't realize it then but I was addicted to busyness 

Then comes October 2013. I'm graduated from college, moved to a new city, working full-time, and married all within the span of a few months. All of a sudden I'm busy learning how to be a nurse and learning how to be a wife, but my schedule looks empty. 

I remember having coffee with a friend and confiding in her that I felt terrible that I wasn't doing more in church or in volunteer activities. She replied with, "Sarah, it's okay that right now your marriage is your ministry. Your job is your ministry." At first, I wasn't okay with her answer. But the more I let it sit, the more I realized she was right. 

I had become so addicted to doing this for church, being involved with this organization, participating in this fundraiser, that now I felt bad for not doing any of the above. But did I feel bad for the church or the people impacted by the organization? Nope, I felt bad for myself. I felt useless, selfish, and like I should be doing more. My friend's words were profound and caused me to realize that my need for busyness was a pitfall in my own heart. Instead of taking the transition period to really pour into my relationship with God, my new husband, and my new coworkers, I let guilt tell me that I was worthless. I forgot that my worth is in Jesus, and not in the things I do. In that moment, I didn't realize that the job and marriage set before me were the tasks requiring day-to-day faithfulness.   

Now, what I'm not getting at is that you shouldn't be involved in your church or different volunteering avenues. In fact, just the opposite. I think involvement in church and places that focus your eyes on someone else are so important. But involvement in these things must come from the right heart and at the right time. I've learned the hard way that being busy is another way to mask insecurity, and busyness can so quickly draw you away from what the Lord has for you. Below are the three strategies I've implemented over the six months to make sure that I am not being busy just to be busy or feel valued. 

Learn to say no. I'm preaching to myself here because I'm terrible at saying no (this is very connected to the fact that I want to please everyone). However, there have been a couple occasions in the past six months where I was presented with an opportunity that I felt like I should have said yes to, but was able to see that it wasn't good timing and therefore declined the offers. 

When contemplating saying yes or no to an opportunity, pray about the timing of it. The Lord may not be saying "no"; instead he may be saying "not yet". 

Develop a "rule of life". Perhaps the book that has influenced my life the most over the past six months is God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu. It was our church's read over the summer and an absolute fantastic book that I would recommend to everyone. The author's basic premise examines the life of the Benedictine monks and their so called "rule of life"- a series of practices (daily, weekly,  monthly, or yearly) that provide structure in their spiritual and every day lives. Shigematsu explains how developing certain practices in our life will actually help ground us spiritually and keep us focused on what's important. 

After reading the book, I started thinking about certain rituals that I could and should implement my life to give it a good order. Things like running on my days off, reading Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling", and prioritizing date nights with my husband are "practices" that have really helped me settle into life over the past few months. 

There is so much more that I want to share about this book and this idea that it's hard to sum it up here. Basically, what are some practices that you practice daily, weekly, and monthly that form the framework to your life? These should be rituals that are life giving, reenergizing, and important to you. That way, if you start finding that you no longer have time for these rituals, then maybe that's your clue that you are too busy with other things. 

Pick up a copy of that book and look out for more posts to come on this idea! 

Learn to be okay with not being "busy". How many of us when asked how life is going respond with something, "Oh good, just really busy!" I know I have (and still do). If you ask someone how they're doing and they responded "Oh good, just hanging out" would your initial reaction be a negative one? I think it's a major cultural shift (in Christian and secular worlds alike) to accept that not being busy is okay. Not being busy is not laziness, it's simply prioritizing what's important and paying more attention to God's work than your own. We (I) need to learn to be okay with not being busy. I need to remember that the pressing feeling of guilt that comes with a seemingly wide open schedule is not from God. Instead, I need to focus on God's work instead of creating my own. 

I need to stop finding value in a packed schedule, and take a few steps back to listen to what God is telling me is important at this moment in time. I have a long ways to go in this department but slowly, I'm learning. 

Have you struggled with being busy all the time? 
What are ways you keep a balance in life? 
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8 comments :

  1. "Learn to be ok with not being busy." What a significant statement! I have and do struggle with this because like you, I'm always used to having a full planner. Sadly, right now all of my jobs are part time and most require work from home so it take significant planning to separate my time. I am trying to no longer multi-task so when I do activities I enjoy such as watch a tv show or read a favorite magazine, I am only doing those activities. Can't wait to read your other posts. I wil certainly have to check out the book.

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  2. Beautiful words here. A wonderful reminder! I can totally relate with the uncertainty and guilt of pulling away from ministries that have felt so important and have taken so much of my heart and time. That is so hard. But God makes a time for everything, He changes things up so we can change and become more of who He wants us to be. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I think learning to say no is key! What truth in everything you said and I think we can all relate!!

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  4. Ahhh that is so hard when you have to work from home because then it's hard to separate your spaces. I've done the several part time jobs thing to and that's always especially hard to plan your time wisely- I'm sure you're doing better than most at it! :) not always trying to multitask is a great idea, something that would be really challenging for me to do. You'll have to let me know what you think about the book if you do check it out, it's wonderful!

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  5. Laura you are so right! Sometimes we have to let God step into our busyness so that He can take us where He wants us. Thanks for that perspective! :-)

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  6. Saying no is key- I hope I get better at it with time!

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  7. I've definitely felt the guilt of not doing enough, and then I remember that this has literally been the hardest year of my entire life. God has definitely been reminding me that it's okay right now to focus on healing and relationships. Doing more will happen once again, just not for the moment.

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear that it has been such a hard year. But you're exactly right- healing and relationships is worth the time and focusing on those things in this moment will allow you to do more and be more effective later :) hang in there!

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