The Gospel of Busy-ness

“How have you been recently?”

“Oh not bad, I’m taking a few classes, working two jobs, volunteering at church, and on the side I’m writing a novel. Hardly sleep, and practically live on coffee, but it’s great. How about you?”

“Me? Just work I guess.”

“That must be nice.” (thinks: ‘slacker.’)

Ever had that conversation? I have, and I’ve variously found myself playing both roles over the years.

It’s an interesting phenomenon really, and you can see it played out on a smaller scale every Monday at work and every Sunday in church lobbies. People who haven’t seen each other in a few days or weeks meet, and the talk quickly becomes a recounting of how terribly busy we all are.

The sad thing is, we’re proud of it.

And not very secretly proud either.

Oh sure, we complain about how we haven’t had a real day off in weeks, or how much work it all is, but somehow all our complaining sounds rather like bragging.

It’s simply backhanded bragging, like complaining that you didn’t expect learning Spanish to be so much work after you got such high scores in French, German, and 5th century Latin.

We’ve bought into the gospel of busyness. We’ve accepted the story we are constantly told – that our value rests in what we can produce, that we are loved for what we can accomplish.

So we push ourselves harder and harder. We sleep less, we work more, and we accomplish a great deal.

But in the process we begin to forget how to sit,

and think,

and breath,

and pray,

and read for pleasure,

and have a real conversation with a friend, or family member, or spouse.

and savor a drink for its flavors and complexities, not its ability to chemically induce either wakefulness or sleep.

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.

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

And the sooner we all realize that the sooner we can stop playing the game of bragging that we’re so very busy.

Even God thought balancing work with rest was worthwhile – perhaps we should give it a try.

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Mason Slater
Mason is a husband to Melinda, seminary student, youth pastor, blogger and freelance writer in, Grand Rapids, MI. He is passionate about theology, community and justice. What little time is left amidst his busy schedule is devoted to reading, coffee snobbery and a new adventure in home brewing.