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Is Busyness Next to Godliness?

Most people would answer that question with some comment about how obviously wrong this title is. Still, we often live our lives as if it were true. Over at Relevant Magazine, Mason Slater offers some thoughts about the cult of busyness. After pointing out the cultural pressure, even within the Church, he offers:

Here’s the dirty little secret of the gospel of busyness: It promises us a full and satisfying life, but, in the end, it makes our lives emptier. It uses us for what we can contribute, and in the process we live less, feel less, even love less.

Instead of a life filled with the satisfaction of endless accomplishments, we’ve gotten ourselves a generation of chronic exhaustion, absent workaholic parents and kids who have been not-so-subtly taught that the only way to earn the attention and love of others is with grades, paychecks or championships.

But your value is not determined by what you produce. Your loveliness is not based on what you accomplish or how full your calendar is.

Work is good—it’s part of the way God designed His image-bearers—but it is not the only thing we were made for. He created us to have a balance in life, going so far as to incorporate a cycle of work and rest into the very fabric of the created order. There is a time for work in that cycle, but there is also a time for rest and community and quiet contemplation.

A life of constant overcommitment is not a sign of success, or something to be bragged about. It is a sign of imbalance, a sign we have put our faith in the gospel of busyness instead of in a God who dares us to trust Him and be willing to rest.

But Slater does not leave us to figure it out on our own. He offers the following advice:

There is hope for the overcommitted, though; we don’t have to live this way. We can balance good hard work with rest and play; in fact we were created to live in that balance. And the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can all stop playing the game of bragging that we are so very busy.

So the next time you catch up with a friend, refrain from contributing to the cycle. Refuse to brag about busyness as if it were a virtue, refuse to act like making time to rest is a mark of shame. If the very God who designed us thought that balancing work with rest was worthwhile, perhaps we should give it a try.

You can read the rest here. This is a much needed reminder for many of us. I find myself defending myself for having the ability to take off a little early to accompany Joy to an ultrasound. Why do I feel this need? Because those around me seem to have an expectation that taking a half day is in some way shirking my responsibilities. Do I still get my work done? Yes. Then what is the big deal? We have set up a culture of busyness. We claim that we are busy so that we can have just one more thing we want, or so we can save for that family vacation. Yet, once we have that one thing, or that amazing vacation, we end up back where we started. Busy again. We are, in large part, fooling ourselves and living an illusion. If the point is to have time for our families, why not find a balance that allows us to be home with our family?

That is part of why I took this job over the (much) better paying offer from a pharma company. Here I knew that I would have more flexibility for what was really important to me. I don’t get to pick vacation days, since I need to be in my classes when Messiah College is open. The reward, though, is that I get to set my office hours around classes in such a way that I have flexibility to take off early if I want. Generally, I put in 10 hour days, but I have the freedom to take an early exit if I want. I set my own deadlines, for the most part. I have summers to take as many days out of the office as I want to spend time with Joy and the kids. We can take day trips, or overnight trips, without having to use up vacation days or ask permission. I chose a career based on my calling and skills, but also with the type of life I wanted to live firmly fixed in my mind.

This job also gives me a chance to reflect on articles like this and post my reflections. In many ways, this is actually part of my job. I need to be thinking through issues like this so that I can set a good example for my students of what a balanced, godly life looks like. I also need to be able to talk with them meaningfully about these issues when advising them, and provide them with resources as they process this and make their own choices in life.

Do you know of any other resources for students to encourage the Christ-like life of balance? I’ve blogged about one resource, Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God. (Check out the posts starting with this, or pick and choose here.) I’m sure there are other resources out there. Please feel free to inform me in the comments section!

If we look at His life, we see the time away balanced with the miracles and preaching. It must have been a significant part of His life, since the Gospel authors all considered it worth noting. Therefore, I think this should be the goal of our lives!

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