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Here’s what my morning looks like, maybe yours does, too: we pull on our athletic wear (even if we never make it to the gym) or, if we work in an office, grab a quick change of clothes before rushing out the door. We drop off our kids at school in SUVs and minivans, coffee in hand, while we pile our hair into a quick top knot. We kiss our children, scurry across the school parking lot, and fiddle with the radio while we down our protein breakfast shake, finish our makeup as we wait to get out of the parking lot, and quickly check our email. We’re the queens of multi-tasking. By the end of the day, we’re worn out, tired, and drinking our fourth cup of (reheated) coffee. In the intervening hours, we’ve carpooled kids, sent them off to tutoring, dance class, soccer practice and rushed off to the PTA meeting. Maybe we find a spare minute to read our Bibles, shoot up a quick prayer, and maybe (if we’re lucky) squeeze in a coffee date with a friend, or some solo time at the gym. We spend our days circling from home to school to work to activity after activity, one after the other.
In one word: we’re busy. It’s not just a set of circumstances, busy is our very mode of being. Busyness is our badge of honor. What’s underneath our constant busyness? It allows us to feel as if we are important when we race from one activity to the next. When we’re busy we feel like we’re accomplishing things, being productive, using our gifts and talents. We feel seen when we’re busy. We feel like we mean something.
What’s behind our desire to spend our lives in a rotation of rush and hurry? Why are we so afraid to slow down? And how can we get past “fine” and “busy”?
When you find yourself in an endless loop of busy, remember what author Alli Worthington writes in Breaking Busy, “we have to start breaking busy before busy breaks us.” But how do we break busy? Christians can model a better path than busyness for a life of meaning and flourishing. Here are three questions to ask yourself when you’re tempted to give in to the pull of busy:
1. Is this necessary?
Often we get pulled into all the things we think we need to do. We live our lives by a list of “should’s” instead of asking the simple question: is this necessary? Yes, we need to eat, so grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning are required. But we don’t need that new dress right this instant. We don’t need to spend our time scrolling through social media or signing our children up for the extracurriculars that your neighbor is doing. We do need to be present. Guess what? That can’t happen when we’re crazy busy.
2. Does this point me (or others) to the best version of myself (or themselves)?
If God has created me with specific abilities, talents, and passions (and He’s created you that way too, including our spouses or children), then when we get sucked in to doing too much, we need to think about what we’re committing to. Will this PTA meeting or volunteer opportunity stretch me to be more humble and giving? Or will it be something that deflates me? Can I learn and help in another way, another venue or another season of life? Before immediately saying “yes” to the next thing, ask if this is best. Does it help me more fully lean into who and what God has made me to be?
3. Am I modeling dependence on Jesus or am I trying to be superwoman?
When we get sucked into busy it’s often because we’re trying to do it all and be it all. The good thing about being God’s child is that we have nothing to prove. Busy will never get us to beloved. In Jesus’ Kingdom the way up is down. Instead of climbing ladders, let’s learn how to sit, how to remain humble, and ask for help — from God and from others.
We’re so busy because ultimately we fail to trust God, yet Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7). Doesn’t that blanket of peace sound better than your superwoman cape made up of “too busy”?
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Ashley Hales is a writer, speaker, church planter’s wife, and mom to 4 littles in southern California. Ashley has written for places such as The Gospel Coalition, Books & Culture, and ThinkChristian and is writing her first book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs (IVP). Be sure to connect with her at her blog, Facebook, or Twitter. Subscribe to get a free booklet on how to practice sustained attention and chase beauty right where you are.