A moratorium on busyness
A moratorium on busyness
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
I don’t know about you, but I derive my sense of worth from doing things which means that the more I do the better I feel about myself. Few things make me feel better than when I can sit down at the end of a long day and check off a list of tasks done and things accomplished.
So now you know what is important to me. The problem is that I am pretty sure that this need which is of utmost importance to me is not all that important to God.
Oh, I can make it sound right and important. I can quote scripture to justify my actions with the best of you. I am quite aware that James urges us to be “doers of the word and not merely hearers” (1:22). Like any good preacher I can justify almost anything with selected texts from the Bible. The thing is though, in my heart of hearts, I know that doing, no matter how satisfying, can never serve as a substitute for faith or a deep relationship with God. In fact, I fear that this God thing has far more to do with being than doing, which is a tough admission for a doer like me.
At least that is what I told a church the other night. I began the evening with their leadership team by asking about their hopes and dreams. I asked what was important to them and asked them to illustrate those things by listing what they were doing. The leaders immediately responded by rattling off a list of important things they were involved in that easily stretched twice as long as the names on their membership rolls. They are a very busy church. Yet when I asked them how they felt about the things they were doing they shared that they were mostly just exhausted. Worse they were running out of ideas and hope and weren’t sure what to do next. They were faithfully “doing” harder than ever but none of their doing seemed to bring the results they hoped for. So I suppose I should not have been surprised that when I then asked what they needed from me a woman plead, “Just tell us what to do. We just need to know what to do.”
Uncharacteristically, my response was that the answer might have nothing to do with doing. Maybe, just maybe, what they needed to do was to concentrate on not doing for awhile. What that church lacked was a vision that went beyond simply doing as hard as they could to keep the church doors open. But sadly they did not know where to look for such a vision. Indeed, you could say that they were looking in all the wrong places. At least in my experience, vision comes from God and it seldom, if ever, comes from more doing. Vision comes from being. As the Psalmist said it comes from setting aside our busyness for a time and simply being still in the presence of God. (Those of you who have been through CLD will recognize this as the bottom of the U where you simply let go and quietly wait on the presence of God.)
That is why I advised the church to stop doing everything that was not absolutely essential, to call a moratorium on busyness, and instead do the harder work of praying and simply being still in the presence of God. I asked them to set aside three months to let go, be still, and listen together for the direction of God.
Will they be able to do it? I don't know. Heck I am not even sure I could do it. But I deeply believe it is exactly the right thing for them to do.
But what really worries me is that I fear that this illness of being overly busy is not limited to your District Superintendent and that one church. My guess is that most of us are too busy to listen for the “still small voice” of God and all could benefit from setting aside time to be still in God’s presence.
Happily the 30th of this month is the first Sunday in Advent. Now I realize that most of us have made Advent into the busiest time of the year as we frantically try to complete all of our Christmas projects in the name of Jesus. However, historically Advent has not been a time of busyness. It has been a time to set busyness aside in order to prepare for the coming of the Christ.
Let me suggest to you that we could all benefit from the Advent advice I gave that church. Perhaps the best gift we could give ourselves, and Jesus, this Christmas would be to set aside the busyness of the holidays and simply be still and know that God is God.
Will I be able to do it? I am not sure, but I am going to try to set aside as much of my To Do List as I can and focus instead on the reason for the list. What are you going to do? (There’s that darn “Do” again. This may well be harder than I thought.)
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Kim Fields is Assistant to the Bishop and District Superintendent for the Sage District of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.