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Oct19FriHave we turned busyness into an idol? October 19, 2018 by Lieutenant Erin Metcalf
It’s 2 a.m. and I am wide awake. I don’t remember waking up, but I am fully alert—heart racing and every cell in my body tingling. I’m sure it’s fear that has roused me, but not fear of an intruder or an ominous presence; no, it is an internal fear.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
I begin to mentally unpack the emotion. Family—OK. House—safe and secure. Pet—quiet. Nothing urgent outstanding. What? And then it hits me, a swinging wrecking ball of truth—I’m not doing enough.
As the minutes tick by, my mind sinks deeper into the abyss of comparison. Colleague “A” has several employees and appears to be running a lot of programs. Colleague “B” is asked regularly to speak at different events. Colleague “C” mentioned returning after vacation to 300 emails. I have 300 unopened emails, too—coupons from retail stores and online ministry sites.
My mind keeps sinking, comparing myself to other women and men who are always busy, parents who are on committees and participate in extracurricular activities alongside their children. I replay conversations in my mind and wonder if my busy is equivalent to their busy.
Am I busy? I chauffeur my children around to various activities. I visit people as often as I can. I have paperwork deadlines and ministry goals and Sunday mornings and special events and new program dreams and … I sigh in relief. Good. I am busy. I am important. I close my eyes.
What is it about being busy that makes us feel important? When we can produce a “to do” list as long as our arm, why does that bolster our ego?
Often, the response to invitations is, “I’d love to, but I can’t—I’m too busy.” I’ve said it myself, often genuinely upset that my commitments keep me from doing things I love to do. But it would be dishonest to deny that, at times, saying “I’m just too busy” gives me a sense of importance.
Somehow those words give me status. They demonstrate that I am needed, sought after and useful. There is work that can only be done by me and me alone.
We all want to be important. But can our worth be measured by how much we accomplish in a day? Has busyness become a status symbol? When the number of tasks and events and hobbies and social outings and projects we tackle in a week generates bragging rights, perhaps there is something wrong. Maybe we need to take a step back.
My days are full and being busy is just part of life. But do I buy into the dangerous idea that because I have so much to do, I have somehow elevated my status within society? Even more so, do I make my role as a busy person into an idol?
Don’t be fooled—this is not just a “world” problem. We in the church are also susceptible to equating those who are busy with those who are doing the most for the kingdom. This is dangerous. We admire the doers, the ones who say yes. Perhaps we ought to look more closely at those who are brave enough to say no. If being busy is the new status symbol, and as Christians we are called to move away from a life of idolatry and status, maybe we need to move away from busyness, too.
Jesus intentionally built rest, solitude and time spent in prayer into his ministry. The Bible does not show us a busy Jesus, a busy God—rest and Sabbath are woven throughout. Psalm 127:2 reminds us, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night … for God gives rest to his loved ones” (NLT).
Walking away from the status symbol of being busy is hard because it forces us to stop and think about what really matters—and what really matters is not usually what people see. The thrill of “busy” is that it makes us look good. It shouts, “Look at me, I’m important.” But our worth is not measured by our busyness.
God continually calls us into deeper relationship with him. That is where we find our worth. The status symbol of being busy is an idol, an idol that will keep us from the God of rest and peace.
Lieutenant Erin Metcalf is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church in Niagara Falls, Ont.