How many times this month, this year, my lifetime have I answered the question, “how are you?” with a one word response and a glib smile, “Busy!” We wear busy like a badge of honor at times. I’ve worn busy like a shield. It “protects” me from engaging relationships and my heart. Busy is not an answer to how are you. Busy is a status update and a state of mind. Busy has kept me from needful reflection. Busy fills in the gaps I don’t need to fill. I need margin in my life, and so do you.
Enter in Kevin DeYoung’s brilliant and appropriately titled book, “Crazy Busy.” I think this will be my #bookofthemonth. (or better yet, #bookofmylife) Full of zingers written not from “above” (meaning the place of “here’s my wisdom for all of you down there who struggle with overcommitment and lack of margin in your life”) – but right alongside. I found his honesty refreshing, and his insights convicting. For example, his one sentence diagnosis of the problem of our busy lives:
We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away.
Not until they’re absent, that is. Like for me most recently as I emerged from a three-month period of time where I had overcommitted to work, and I found that I’d missed so much in terms of connecting with my family and friends, and nurturing physical health, and saw abundant evidence that I’d been running on empty in terms of emotional availability to those I love most. DeYoung speaks to this:
Most of us fall into a predictable pattern. We start to get overwhelmed by one or two big projects. Then we feel crushed by the daily grind. Then we despair of ever feeling at peace again and swear that something has to change. Then two weeks later life is more bearable, and we forget about our oath until the cycle starts all over again. What we don’t realize is that all the while we’ve been a joyless wretch, snapping like a turtle and as personally engaging as a cat. When busyness goes after joy, it goes after everyone’s joy.
He discusses the question of why with seven diagnoses. Why so busy? Why do we (you, me) get into these cycles of crazy busy? And not seem to fully disengage from busy? What gets me so often is the lie of indispensability. That I am irreplaceable, and that if I don’t do [fill-in-the-blank], then it won’t get done – or it won’t get done well. And he rightly says, “the truth is, you’re only indispensable until you say no.” This is under Diagnosis #1 of “You Are Beset with Many Manifestations of Pride.” And in case that doesn’t get you, wait until Diagnosis #5 – “You Are Letting The Screen Strangle Your Soul” and #6 – “You’d Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself.”
DeYoung presents the quest to let go of “crazy busy” as a community pursuit. And how that resonates with me! I need the example of friends who say “no” graciously and who live joyfully within their limits. I also need to learn to give others space to not reply to my email or text right away. And I need you to remind me of these words I’ve placed before you – a resolution to say “no” to crazy busy and “yes” to life. Real life. I end here:
The antidote to busyness of soul is not sloth and indifference. The antidote is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our finitude, and trust in the providence of God. The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things. It’s being busy trying to please people, busy trying to control others, busy trying to do things we haven’t been called to do.