It’s that time of year again—when my calendar says December 1st and I’m instantly filled with a sense of stress, knowing that there is no way possible I will have everything done that I’m told I need to have done in these short twenty-four days. I feel like someone keeps increasing the speed on the treadmill and I’m eventually going to face-plant, ending up with a friction burn across my forehead just in time for that classic family photo in front of the church Christmas tree.
Something is so very wrong with this picture.
I’ve been sitting on something for a while and this seems like the perfect time to just say it in writing: I HATE being busy. I hate it. I think busy-ness has the potential to suck the joy right out of a person. And I think it can be deadly to the spiritual life.
In the first two years of my life as a mom, I was in the center of the perfect storm of knowing nothing about anything. I was a very stay-at-home mom back then. Like didn’t leave the house for much on a regular day kind of mom. Getting out with a baby (and then two!) was a little frightening to me. I definitely fought through some depression. The walls were closing in for a while. It wasn’t pure misery, by any means. In fact, nothing had ever made me happier than bringing home babies. But there was a quiet kind of loneliness to staying at home that felt at times like such a hardship.
But around year four, something happened. I settled in. I started to realize that there was a real, palpable joy in this investment of time and self I was making into my own life. By then I had just had my third baby and somehow I felt like I was thriving. There were seeds that had been scattered in that time of quiet loneliness that I think were coming into bloom.
Honestly, I think a lot of that came with adding more kids. Everywhere I turned it was echoed back to me that this was my abundant life and in it, I was the mom. It was like the deeper I dug, the more of myself I became. It was a kind of busy that, for me, really translated to abundance—the busy abundance of kids who want apples but only if they’re peeled and others who can’t get enough of the Old Lady books and still those who need to be pushed on swings and then the other ones who have to be rushed to the potty at the most inopportune times. It can be a circus. But it’s my circus. It’s my life. It’s the busy-ness I choose.
See that was the secret that allowed me to settle in. It was when I looked around at the chaos and said I choose this. God wrapped me up in His word in an ah-ha moment that had been a long-time coming and my whole outlook on vocation changed.
So let each one give as he chooses in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity. For God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7
I think that God is always speaking. I think He plants the truth as seeds in our hearts and at different points along the journey they just burst open into big, beautiful blooms, but not if we’re just too busy. That’s been me lately. I have the busy-ness of my actual life that is meant to be my focus. And then there’s the busy-ness that I heap onto myself for some reason I must keep forgetting.
My ah-ha moment was one of those blooms that I think took root in me somewhere in that season of loneliness. Because maybe sometimes loneliness breeds deeper revelation and a greater kinship to God, not necessarily loneliness, but rather—quiet. Don’t you think it’s an excellent piece of advice that is probably applicable to every woman in the world: Slow down. Find some quiet. Be still.
I keep thinking about all the accounts of Jesus’s encounters with people in scripture—sitting to dine, washing feet, talking at the well. I keep thinking about how He took His time. I think about how He takes His time with me still, tending a seed planted in my heart for years and years through the gospel of simple, consistent encounter. Slow. Quiet. Still.
I think about how often I let time fly by without really encountering my husband, my kids, my friends. Yes we ride around in the same van and sit at the same table, but how often am I just rushing through—trying to get to the next thing, to make sure it all gets done, goes as planned, so that we can wake up tomorrow and start it all over. Are we encountering each other between the lines of all those things we “have to do”? Or are we just too busy?
There is the busy-ness of the life that God has called us to and then there’s the kind of busy-ness that keeps us from the real encounter we are meant to be having within those lives we’ve been given. That’s the busy-ness that steals the joy away: the busy-ness of trying to keep up the pace with those around us, trying to prove something to someone either real or imagined, trying to make sure we check all the boxes on the holiday to-do list, the busy-ness of control, the busy-ness of simply not knowing how to say “no”, the busy-ness we so often use as places to hide.
That little bloom in my heart that made 2 Corinthians 9:7 real to me showed me that there was joy in choosing to give. But I’m thinking that the choice of something is usually the rejection of something else. So if there’s joy in choosing to give myself fully to my life as a mom, I think there is probably also joy in choosing not to give myself to the places I don’t belong—to those kinds of busy that rob me of the opportunities to truly encounter the ones God has given me.
So hear-ye, hear-ye, all my friends: I hereby reject the busy-ness that I hate. I refuse to turn into a screaming lunatic, yelling at my kids because I can’t get my two-year-old into pants so that we can make it somewhere on time. (Spoiler alert to everyone who knows me in real life…I’m going to be late.) I choose, instead slow, quiet, still and I pray that God allows me to really build that into my life this season; to choose it before I grab for anything else. Because I do believe that is what Advent is for—a time to take some deep breaths and gaze into a small flame and wait for real encounter.
Copyright 2016 Kelly Pease