the cost of busyness
Last week, I was in San Luis Obispo for work visiting Diablo Canyon, a nuclear power plant that generates electricity for a portion of California’s residents. While there, we had a tour guide who walked us around the property, explaining the various processes by which the plant operates. I was entranced by the enormity of it all, and spellbound by the many sounds.
Faintly from outside, waves rhythmically rolled in and seagulls squawked enthusiastically from above. Inside, machines whirred thunderously as they all worked to accomplish their tasks. High pitches and low rumbles, together it was a symphony of productivity.
We went from room to room, until finally we entered one so loud that earplugs were required. I squished mine in, then stepped forward. A dungeonous door slammed behind us, and a new world opened up in front.
Earplugs in place, my focus shifted. No longer could I hear the faint waves or the seagulls, and the deafening mechanical sounds were now replaced with a muted drone. Instead, my attention was drawn inward, and I was suddenly aware of everything happening in me. My heartbeat rang loudly in my ears, and each step I took resounded like the beat of a drum. I was tuned in to each breath, and even my thoughts seemed to be more prominent, more clear.
It’s as if my ability to temporarily tune out the outside world opened up a whole new ability to tune into everything happening within.
Being busy does not require me to be rushed, but I’m still trying to learn that. I’m really good at living really rushed, and really, that’s not good. I’ll pack my schedule full, then become so focused on my to-do list that I wind up living in a perpetual state of “get to the next thing.” Other than the fact that it’s an empty way to engage my schedule, this ends up presenting another problem: my busyness creates a momentum that gets harder and harder to slow.
My friend Brittany visited a few weeks ago and we decided to make a trip up to Sonoma for a two-day creative retreat to work on our respective endeavors—me, writing, and her, planning for a ministry she is currently beginning to build up in Madagascar.
Before diving into writing I decided to spend some time journaling. For weeks I’d yearned for just that—open ended time to work through the wants and worries of my heart before God, and to invite Him to whisper peace into those places as only He can. Yet there I was, staring at crisp, blank journal pages, favorite pen in hand, and nothing was coming to me. I noticed a pull to check Facebook or respond to emails—anything to keep my mind stimulated and moving forward. The stillness after so much speediness felt foreign.
I pressed forward, and after staring at the blank pages for a small eternity, finally I felt my chest exhale as if I’d been holding my breath and slowly, my muscles began to release. The thoughts began to flow—a trickle, first, which soon gave way to a swift stream.
Today’s culture tells us to wear busyness like a badge of honor. We flaunt our full schedules because it makes us feel important, but is it good for us?
Busyness has a cost.
We all want to hear from God; we want Him to speak into areas of our lives we feel desperately need answers. We want to feel His presence, and be assured of His love for us. We want relief from our anxieties; we want to reside in His peace.
The problem is, we’re expecting to hear Him over the thunderously whirring machines of our lives, but that’s not how Scripture tells us He speaks. It tells us that He speaks to us in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). Just as Scripture doesn’t suggest that God shouts to us above the chaos of our lives, for me, neither does experience. Some of my most meaningful encounters with God have happened when I’ve intentionally set time aside, protecting it from the demands of my schedule and distractions of the outside world. Practically, this looks like a cleared calendar and an iPhone set on airplane mode.
We all long for purpose in this world, yet it’s easy to get caught up going through the motions of life, wondering why we don’t feel it. God desires to speak to us, and to stir up desires in our hearts meant to point us towards those purposes, but if we don’t take time to disconnect from all the things that keep us constantly overstimulated and preoccupied, those desires will get drowned out. We’ll miss them. One of Satan’s most effective weapons in keeping us from intimacy with God and from purpose is busyness, because we don’t view it as “bad.” It’s subtle, yet it unsuspectingly steals our focus, keeping us from stilling our hearts, which is the space God speaks into.
When life is busy, and our hearts, minds, and bodies get used to moving at a certain pace, it’s harder to slow that momentum to quiet our hearts before the Lord.
Then, even though our heads know differently, our hearts can slip into a mentality of believing we have to convince God to speak to us or show us reminders of His hand in our lives.
But that’s a lie.
God wants to reveal Himself to us through “random” occurrences in our everyday lives, and He wants to give us opportunities to follow His prompting and feel His purpose, if only in something as small as showing kindness to a stranger we may have otherwise missed because we simply didn’t look up.
God is constantly present, continually wanting to commune with us in every moment of our day, we just have to slow our hearts enough to see it.
Resisting a rushed life is necessary for a life lived in constant communion with God, and I’m working to find balance in this area of my life, trying to create rhythms of rest so that busyness doesn’t take over. This often means finding opportunities to stick in those “earplugs”—by scheduling space on my calendar, then protecting it as I would an appointment.
What are some “earplugs” that have worked for you—practices that have helped you to resist a rushed life? Let me know in the comments below—I’d love to learn from you and continue to grow in this area.
As for now, I’m on my way up to Hume Lake for a week, a Christian camp I grew up attending, and one I’ve gotten to enjoy as a high school girls’ counselor for the last few years. With no cell service and a to-do list that’s staying at home, I’ll be completely unplugged for the next week. Only thing on my agenda is meeting with God and hanging out with the incredible students and leaders around me; and I sure am looking forward to it. Stay tuned to hear how God moves this week and if you think about it, pray for safety and for meaningful encounters with Jesus.
P.S. Below are some photos from our Sonoma creative retreat. If you ever get a chance to stay at The Lodge, do it—a total splurge, but worth it, especially if you save up hotel points and barely spend a dime like we did. 😉