Becoming Un-Busy

I read a thoughtful post last week called “The Disease of Being Busy” by Omed Safi, a columnist for On Being.  It was an older post but is one that still rings true today.

We are so, so busy, aren’t we? Americans like to do all the things. We pack our schedules full and then lament our 16-hour work days. Safi mentions that we are now doing this to our kids, too. We shuttle our third graders to painting class and basketball and gymnastics and dance; we have so many activities for them that we need planners just to keep track of our kids’ schedules. We rely on busy as Americans. But, as Safi mentions,
This disease of being ‘busy’ (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.”

This busyness is a gross habit, and I have lots of questions about it. I wonder what our busyness says about our own insecurities. I wonder what it says about our inability to just be. I wonder what it says about how we find our purpose. I wonder what it will do to our children…
An empty to-do list?! Who does that?!


When praying is not enough

There are a few Christian platitudes of which I am simply tired:
  • #blessed (Especially when it's used after something superficial like finding a good deal in the clearance section at Target.)
  • God never gives you more than you can handle (Just...no....this is steeped in wrong theology. God DOES give us more than we can handle. Remember the thorn in Paul's side?)
  • I will pray for you
For the record: I'm guilty of using all of these at one point in my life...especially the last one. It's not a bad thing to pray for people in times of distress. As we see in the gospels, Jesus himself prayed during times of distress. However, do you know what he did more frequently? He acted.

I'm slowly moving my way through the book of Matthew, and my biggest takeaway is how frequently Jesus was compelled to act. He healed people, fed people, trained people for ministry, called out religious zealots, turned over tables, raised people from the dead. There are more instances of Jesus acting in the book of Matthew than there are of Jesus praying. Matthew 9:36-38 reads,
"When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"
Jesus was moved to compassion by people on the fringes--compassion that resulted in both prayer and action. I fear we're missing this as a collective body of Christians. When I pause to think about how many times I've promised prayer to a person without any sort of accompanying action to lighten his/her burden, I'm quite ashamed. I think there's a few reasons for my inaction, but the main might be that I have not allowed myself to be moved by compassion often enough.


Complacency, security, and status

It's well past midnight where I live, and I just can't sleep. For the past hour and a half I've been reading the book of Amos from God's Justice Bible. The intro to the text fantastically describes the context surrounding the book:
"Originally, in the time of the judges before the people of Israel had a king, each Israelite family had its own land in an agricultural society where wealth was decentralized. But during the period of the monarchy, a small group of powerful people around the kings use legal and illegal methods to seize the land of many people. Those who lose their land fall into poverty, and the powerful become very wealthy" (Sider and Davis, 1263). 
So, Amos--a shepherd turned prophet (i.e. a regular guy who smells like animal dung), is called by God to speak about Israel's future destruction due to the systems of injustice they created. Amos is speaking this message to the fat-cats in Israel who have gained their wealth by oppressing others (Amos 2: 6-8; Amos 5:10-13). Sider and Davis mention that Amos's message is particularly unpopular given that he is speaking about the future during a prosperous time for Israel. Nobody takes him seriously, and in the end, it costs Israel when they are defeated and taken over by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

You see: God hates injustice and oppression. He doesn't take either lightly. In fact, Amos 4:12 is ominous and terrifying: "'Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God." Isn't this chilling?! I mean, seriously.

What strikes me so much about Amos, though, comes later in chapter 5:21-6:7. In this section God calls out complacency, security, and status.