Too often we think we're indispensable. Or we believe that we have to be busy, productive, efficient to have worth. It's that basic belief that leads many of us into the hot water of "over-commitment". We have these notions about things that need to get done, whether we've created the list ourselves, or have been handed it by another. They are all "important" things, and the assumption seems to be that if we don't do it, it won't get done. And maybe that's the truth. But I think that's why this quote from Henri Nouwen really struck me this week:
In general we are very busy people. We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead. Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying or doing. (The Way Of The Heart - Henri Nouwen).
Did you catch the last part of the last sentence? "...we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying or doing". BOOM. Well, that's how I felt when I read it. Many of us have found ourselves stuck in a routine that keeps us perpetually busy, and we don't have (or take) the time to sit down and say "is this really WORTH thinking, saying or doing?".
I was given the gift of going on vacation last week, one that took me away from the computer - the internet - the e-mail - my cell phone - television - commitments - responsibilities - the hectic life I had come to know over September and October. It was absolutely glorious. I spent time resting and relaxing, allowing God to renew my weary soul. In the busyness of the past two months I had become THAT person - the one who is constantly going, with no time for Sabbath, and I had begun to think that I had to do all this stuff, and that it was because of me that things were getting done. I needed to be there, I needed to do that, I was making things happen. There was probably a good amount of "holy" pride in it too. How quickly life eroded to chaos, a chaos I wasn't truly aware of, or didn't want to attend to, because I was too busy to stop and think about it. Or maybe, I didn't want to know the truth.
A week away from the madness was exactly what was needed to shift my perspective, to humble me, and remind me that life goes on, even when I'm not there. Sometimes that's a hard pill to swallow, but swallow it we must. For me, this past week has helped me refocus my perspectives, review priorities, and ultimately let myself wonder "are the activities of my day worth thinking, saying or doing?" And I've discovered not all of them are. There are better choices to be made. I need to learn to let go of things - the things that I have made more important then they should be. There is Sabbath to be had.
Sabbath reminds us that our worth does not come from how hard we work or how good we are or how much we produce or what people think of us. (Rob Bell)
I want to encourage you to take a moment to stop this week and reflect on what you are thinking, saying and doing, and ask yourself, ask God - is this worth me thinking, saying or doing? And, if you haven't been intentionally taking Sabbath - start! Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath! (Mark 2: 27) Rest, be well, and know that God is God and we are not.
Thanks for this, Melissa! So counter-cultural I can hardly hear it over the hum of my busyness. Makes me wonder whether the church - as congregation, council, classis, denomination - could be an arena, or a culture, that helps people find some balance in their lives...
And I even wonder: Could DEACONS, of all people, be the ones who help us find the balance between active obedience on the one hand, and schedules packed with activities on the other? Does a life of service and caring necessarily result in over-commitment, harried busyness, and stress? Could deacons be the ones who lead us into new thinking and practice on this?
"Spot on" Melissa! One wise & experienced (older) parishioner said to me that the most important facet in our lives were our vital relationships - with God, with our spouse, with family, and with our friends and neighbors. For these relationships to become deep and rooted, it takes time. It seems relational time is the antithesis of busyness in our daily lives.
What about the our individual congregations calling it's members out to pursue sustainability and simplification in our lives? 'More is caught than taught' is an axiom that I think is appropo here. Maybe our church's could model and teach this by trying to make people less busy with meetings, but rather, try to encourage healthy rythms where relational time and community building are more highly valued than the "normal church meeting". The church as an institution can consume huge amounts of energy and time within itself and not really havie a a significant impact on its surrounding community (thinking missionally). In our current social context, I'm seeing that many dedicated church members/Christ followers are simply runnning out of margin(and energy) to build significant relationships with people who don't know the Lord.
Maybe its also time to rethink how we organize ourselves within our churches. Somehow we need to empower and release our members to concentrate more on their relational deployment to our neighbors and neighborhoods than on maintaining the institution we call church.
hmmm... great thoughts... Spirit's a stirring and making us think about what's eternal/important, and what's not.
During my prayer time this morning, prompted by Karl W's thoughts on spiritual discernment at ecclesiastical assemblies in the classis discussion forum, I was thinking about the many board and committee meetings I've been at, that are 95% business/corporate like focus with Robert and his rules governing the structure (do I dare say, maybe sometimes in place of the Holy Spirit?? and makes me wonder if we are much more comfortable with Robert than the Holy Spirit), bookended by prayers. and the thought was, we're in a rut. I've often thought we're kind of stuck as a denomination for whatever reason, but had never had the word rut connected to it. as Melissa stated, stuck in a routine, which confirms the thought I had this morning.
I really think the LORD is working on converting us from "Miss Marthas" to Miss Marys", by us spending more time in His Presence, seeking His leading and guiding and then carrying out whatever it is He puts on our hearts during that time. I have found, that when I am in this "rhythm" with Him, that when I do have to get the "Miss Martha" work done, it is far more effective and flows much smoother, with unbelievable statistical probabilities of timing that can only be Divine. and it is far more enjoyable =), a delight, not a duty, always a bonus when doing Kingdom work =) !
Someone just shared the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, with me... haven't read it yet, but looking forward to it =) !!
Yep, our culture (& the dutch do too) values a hard working, driven, dynamic person, that gets the job done. The ones who keep their homes (& cars) immaculate, bring the best dishes to potlucks, as well as sing in the choir, play 5 instruments and can shoot a pretty mean hoop as well ( and probably run marathons too)! Of course, I'm being a bit snarky! But our time/relationship with Jesus is sometimes/often viewed as "wasting" time and not valued.
anyway, the Rob bell quote reminded me of this scripture...
Gal. 1:10 (NKJV) For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
I hope that we are able to do more than just talk about some changes, and we will be able to move forward with a fresh vitality. As Clarence Vos stated at the end of his article in the Nov. Banner (p38) boq It would seem the need of the hour is prayer, openness to the Spirit's leading, and an expectation that in the end our Christian faith will be more vital than ever! eoq
and to that I say AMEN!!
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