I told my family at Christmas, all twenty of us sitting in a circle in my parents’ living room, “2019 will be the year I learn to rest.” Other people were sharing their dedication to try harder in their marriages, to be better at forgiveness, to say hard things to people they loved. In this moment of intense vulnerability, I said the thing about rest and immediately felt self conscious.
I’d shared it because rest was/is the great struggle of my life. Because even on vacation at Christmas I felt empty and tired and torn ten ways. Because I knew I was striving for something that probably didn’t matter much and that this striving could very well ruin me. The pace and the reaching and the crushing weight of my planner, all of it felt like an avalanche, an avalanche I couldn’t stop running toward.
So I said the thing about rest.
But I wonder what they heard. I wonder if they thought I was weak. I wonder if they thought I was bragging.
Today, everyone is “busy.” It’s a defining feature of the modern life. When I tell people I can’t do something or go somewhere because I have other obligations or because I’m trying to cut back on commitments, they say pointedly, “Everyone is busy.” When I tell people I’m trying to learn to rest they laugh and say, “Tell me when you’ve got it figured out.” Busy-ness, blinding, life-crushing busy-ness is perfectly acceptable, expected even.
If you can’t handle it, you’d better hurry up and learn how.
Thing is, I do know how. I’m better than most people at juggling obligations and getting things done. I’ve been a go-getter, achiever, hustler for decades. I know how it works. And I know how it hurts.
In kindergarten I gave myself stress migraines by assigning myself so much imaginary homework I couldn’t get it all done.
In high school my list of clubs, accomplishments, and awards in single-spaced eight point font required a second page.
In one semester of college I took 19 hours of classes, worked a twenty hour a week job, wrote an honors thesis, played intramural sports, played a part in a musical, and served as a youth minister’s wife. That’s right around the time when my colon stopped working properly.
I know how to be busy, very busy.
It’s easy. And it’s been so hard.
I realized pretty early in my journey to rest that some people took my desire to be less busy for bragging about being busy, as if my confession of striving, over-committing, and reaching for achievement as a marker of my worth was more boast than admission of guilt. Here I am sharing what I see as the biggest area of sin in my life and people on the other side of the computer screen are rolling their eyes. So sorry you’re so wanted and accomplished, Jennifer.
I get it.
I can be tempted to roll my eyes when a hot guy confesses to sleeping with lots of attractive women. Or when a stay at home mom confesses to obsessing over keeping her house clean. Or when someone who seems to have it all together confesses to pride.
We want to say, That must be so hard for you… having women falling at your feet, having a gorgeous, spotless house, thinking you’re better than everyone else.
You hear that sarcasm dripping? That’s jealousy, and it’s what happens when we forget how terrible and devastating sin is, when we start to think some sins (especially the sins that seem like locked doors to us) would be fun.
To me, when I look at the lists of random things I’ve “accomplished” I don’t see something to desire. I see years and years of self-abuse. Years of pushing myself too hard. Years of trying to prove something. Years of reaching for the affirmation I already had in Christ.
Some people mean to brag when they say they’re too busy. But even then they’re accidentally confessing, letting you in on something unhealthy inside them. Cramming our lives with too much going, too much trying, and too much reaching is always a sign of brokenness.
Maybe you’re self-reliant. Maybe you’re closed off from the blessing of community. Maybe you don’t think God loves you unless you prove your love for Him. Maybe you want people to be impressed by you. Maybe you’re afraid of being still, afraid to be alone in the quiet with your thoughts. Maybe you’re afraid of not having enough and can’t stop working to accumulate. Whatever it is, excessive busy-ness grows from and is fueled by a lack of trust in God. It’s bad, and it comes with a host of slaying consequences.
This isn’t a post about how to be less busy or how to rest. I’m working through that, seeking solutions, letting God reshape my heart. I’ll take any recommendations you want to throw my way, and I’ll take all the prayers. This is a real struggle for me, and I’m taking it seriously.
This is also not a post bashing industry. I’m a fan of hard work. I think it’s holy. I’m happy to have been used by God to do things that matter.
Instead, this post is just a simple reminder:
When someone says “I’m too busy,” it’s not a brag. It’s a flare.
Don’t roll your eyes. Help.