"I've Been Busy" - But You aren't that Important

I cannot tell you how many times I have asked someone how they are doing and they reply in a variance of "I've been busy" as if this is a real answer to my question.  Are you happy?  Do you have joy?  Are you worn out?  Do you need rest?  How do you feel about being busy?  It's like asking someone if I can borrow a pen and they tell me what color it is. They reply they are busy as if that should satisfy my curiosity on their condition. To me, it feels as if people think being busy meets some unspoken goal of our lives, that if we are busy, we have achieved some greatness in our day.

While here in Indiana, not being busy, I have indulged in my friend Carole's library, a library after my own heart, and have been reading from there a copy of Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor.  Having struggled with this issue of being busy himself, he reflects, "It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard.  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." As a remedy, he suggests, "The trick of course, is to get to the calendar before anyone else does. I mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work--prayer, preaching, and listening can issue."

This is the very remedy my spiritual director suggested for me several months ago, a remedy to being busy, I admit, in which I haven't followed through.  But now I realize that after evaluating my priorities and saying no to everything else, my second step is to bring those priorities into balance.  Before I came here to Indiana, my life was insanely busy getting three books ready for the printer, my second priority after my relationship with God, a goal at which I succeeded.  But going back, I can't return to the same pace, it is draining and sucks the life energy out of my soul.  There are times, I know, that will be busy.  We all have seasons like that where one priority takes the most time, or even several.  But it can only be for a season.  For instance, Carole has been working on writing new syllabi's for several new classes she is teaching here at Earlham.  We have had many conversations about the books she is having her students read, the papers she is assigning them, and the projects they will complete. It is a busy time for her but it will not last.  She knows to take care of herself and to not put too many rocks in her jar. 

This is my lesson in returning home: Being busy is not a state of being, it is a state of dying.  Eugene Peterson observed how many of the things he did each day were superfluous to what was actually needed.  A church nearby had no pastor for a year or two and though they had someone stepping in to preach and another to conduct wedding, funerals, and baptisms, he noticed many of the things he did as a pastor were not being done at that church and no one minded.  So he stopped doing them at his church and no one minded there either.  He realized some of the things he thought were important were in reality, not needed. Reading that experience of his made me wonder how many things do I do in my life, how many things do we all do, that don't really matter?  Or how many things do we do because we think we are essential when in actuality, we just aren't that important? For example, I have taken photos for a theatre here in town of their shows, an activity I have found I have some talent for, but I realized it was one of the rocks that had to go if I was going to attend to the rocks that needed to be in my life's jar. The theatre was fine with my decision and they found other people to take those pictures. I'm just not that important.  If something really needs to be done, God will arrange for someone who is called to do it.

This time in Indiana has been a treasured, contemplative rest. It has brought me back to that centered peace I belong in.  I have had the time to read, write, and just be still. The busy, intense period is over and I now know what it feels like to have a life with a lot more rest in it, so I know I will be putting parameters in place to ensure I am not that consistently busy again. It is okay for a short period, but is not for okay for life.  Even Jesus, especially Jesus, took time away for quiet, both alone and with his friends. He is our example to emulate. However, it is because I first realized this summer how overrun my life had become, that I was able to come back to this rhythm so quickly.  Already having recalibrated to a slower pace, I felt the strain far sooner being busy than I would have a few months before.  This is a good thing. But I need to live in such a way that I find rest in my daily life, not to be extremely busy and then get away to rest. I already need to have that in my day.  But being overly busy for a time did teach me one thing: I know where my boundaries are. 

If we don't draw boundaries around our lives and energy, people will have no trouble crossing those boundaries and filling up our schedule. We have to get to our calendars first. Peterson has a great suggestion for this.  He tells us that we should schedule out blocks of time for God, ourselves, and those we love first. Then when someone asks us to do something that same night, instead of saying, "I was thinking of reading that night" or "I was going to take my wife out to dinner," both of which they might try to persuade you to reschedule, simply reply with, "My appointment calendar will not permit it." He claims people never argue with this answer and you are sure to keep those things in place that nurture you and give you breath.

I would urge you to take a hard look at your schedule. What things are you doing that need to be taken out, what things do you need to put your energy into instead? What space needs to be built into your day? We can't keep running from event to appointment to practice to work. We can't keep thinking about what is coming next, we need to be where we are.  We need air and breath in our day. You have to just do it.  There will never be a convenient time to change. But it's always appropriate.
Walking the Sea: "I've Been Busy" - But You aren't that Important

Monday, November 8, 2010

"I've Been Busy" - But You aren't that Important

I cannot tell you how many times I have asked someone how they are doing and they reply in a variance of "I've been busy" as if this is a real answer to my question.  Are you happy?  Do you have joy?  Are you worn out?  Do you need rest?  How do you feel about being busy?  It's like asking someone if I can borrow a pen and they tell me what color it is. They reply they are busy as if that should satisfy my curiosity on their condition. To me, it feels as if people think being busy meets some unspoken goal of our lives, that if we are busy, we have achieved some greatness in our day.

While here in Indiana, not being busy, I have indulged in my friend Carole's library, a library after my own heart, and have been reading from there a copy of Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor.  Having struggled with this issue of being busy himself, he reflects, "It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard.  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." As a remedy, he suggests, "The trick of course, is to get to the calendar before anyone else does. I mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work--prayer, preaching, and listening can issue."

This is the very remedy my spiritual director suggested for me several months ago, a remedy to being busy, I admit, in which I haven't followed through.  But now I realize that after evaluating my priorities and saying no to everything else, my second step is to bring those priorities into balance.  Before I came here to Indiana, my life was insanely busy getting three books ready for the printer, my second priority after my relationship with God, a goal at which I succeeded.  But going back, I can't return to the same pace, it is draining and sucks the life energy out of my soul.  There are times, I know, that will be busy.  We all have seasons like that where one priority takes the most time, or even several.  But it can only be for a season.  For instance, Carole has been working on writing new syllabi's for several new classes she is teaching here at Earlham.  We have had many conversations about the books she is having her students read, the papers she is assigning them, and the projects they will complete. It is a busy time for her but it will not last.  She knows to take care of herself and to not put too many rocks in her jar. 

This is my lesson in returning home: Being busy is not a state of being, it is a state of dying.  Eugene Peterson observed how many of the things he did each day were superfluous to what was actually needed.  A church nearby had no pastor for a year or two and though they had someone stepping in to preach and another to conduct wedding, funerals, and baptisms, he noticed many of the things he did as a pastor were not being done at that church and no one minded.  So he stopped doing them at his church and no one minded there either.  He realized some of the things he thought were important were in reality, not needed. Reading that experience of his made me wonder how many things do I do in my life, how many things do we all do, that don't really matter?  Or how many things do we do because we think we are essential when in actuality, we just aren't that important? For example, I have taken photos for a theatre here in town of their shows, an activity I have found I have some talent for, but I realized it was one of the rocks that had to go if I was going to attend to the rocks that needed to be in my life's jar. The theatre was fine with my decision and they found other people to take those pictures. I'm just not that important.  If something really needs to be done, God will arrange for someone who is called to do it.

This time in Indiana has been a treasured, contemplative rest. It has brought me back to that centered peace I belong in.  I have had the time to read, write, and just be still. The busy, intense period is over and I now know what it feels like to have a life with a lot more rest in it, so I know I will be putting parameters in place to ensure I am not that consistently busy again. It is okay for a short period, but is not for okay for life.  Even Jesus, especially Jesus, took time away for quiet, both alone and with his friends. He is our example to emulate. However, it is because I first realized this summer how overrun my life had become, that I was able to come back to this rhythm so quickly.  Already having recalibrated to a slower pace, I felt the strain far sooner being busy than I would have a few months before.  This is a good thing. But I need to live in such a way that I find rest in my daily life, not to be extremely busy and then get away to rest. I already need to have that in my day.  But being overly busy for a time did teach me one thing: I know where my boundaries are. 

If we don't draw boundaries around our lives and energy, people will have no trouble crossing those boundaries and filling up our schedule. We have to get to our calendars first. Peterson has a great suggestion for this.  He tells us that we should schedule out blocks of time for God, ourselves, and those we love first. Then when someone asks us to do something that same night, instead of saying, "I was thinking of reading that night" or "I was going to take my wife out to dinner," both of which they might try to persuade you to reschedule, simply reply with, "My appointment calendar will not permit it." He claims people never argue with this answer and you are sure to keep those things in place that nurture you and give you breath.

I would urge you to take a hard look at your schedule. What things are you doing that need to be taken out, what things do you need to put your energy into instead? What space needs to be built into your day? We can't keep running from event to appointment to practice to work. We can't keep thinking about what is coming next, we need to be where we are.  We need air and breath in our day. You have to just do it.  There will never be a convenient time to change. But it's always appropriate.

3 Comments:

At November 8, 2010 at 7:20 PM , Anonymous Tim Magee said...

Ideas need quiet if they are to synthesize together, making something new.

 
At November 11, 2010 at 3:38 AM , Blogger Gil S said...

Thank you Sarah. Once again you put into words just what my soul needs to hear.

 
At November 12, 2010 at 11:23 AM , Blogger Janelle said...

This is not new to me, but how to do it remains a bit of a puzzle.

Just for conversation's sake, I'm curious to know what would have been your response the night we were working on book covers, if I had said, "It is now time for me to go to bed. I have work tomorrow and I have a hard time scheduling an adequate amount of sleep."

Not that I would do it any differently than we did, but would love to have your feedback as a person who needs something from someone else.

 

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