“Wherever you are…be all there” -Elisabeth Elliot
I have never really made this overt, but I hope that whoever reads the things I write realizes that most of what I write about is in response to deep convictions that I feel about things that I wish I was doing a better job at, but struggle at times to be intentional about.
I think that’s why you’re reading this too.
You desire to be more intentional in face of the ugly “busy-monster” who seems to echo the murderous plans of the enemy: to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a). My conviction in writing about this comes, partly, from an interaction a few days ago. I asked a buddy “Hey, what’s new with you?” and he replied simply and intensely, “Man… you know the holidays, things are crazy… I’m just SO busy!” I felt a twinge of frustration come over me- judgement even. I wanted to have a conversation- I wanted to know what was new with you. The next day, a different friend texted me around 9 am, and I “wasn’t able to respond” until about 8 that night. The text went something like this: “Man, I am so sorry for the delay. I’m just getting to this… crazy long day!” Etc, etc. I caught myself doing the same thing that was causing me to feel frustration and I noticed that my response sounded more like a crossed off checklist task or an excuse than an attempt to genuinely connect.
Reply to text message from this morning: Check!
The truth is… I have lists and lists of endless tasks that never seem to resolve. You probably do too. We keep lists to help us remember and demonstrate, once items have been ‘checked’ and ‘crossed off’, a sense of accomplishment. This is not necessarily a bad thing… but it can become harmful if it interrupts joy and prevents us from attending fully to God, and to life and the people in it.
We text while our kids play on the swings.
We send a quick email right before we turn off the lights before bed.
We work on work after work.
You’ve heard it before, but one thing we (okay, I’ll say “I”) struggle with, is the “glorification of BUSY.” We are missing out, aren’t we?
How do we destroy that which seeks to destroy us? I have two (borrowed) ideas!
1. Seeing Jesus as a “Holy Thief”: Advent lists
Yesterday, I listened to a snippet of a clip from Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, here in Denver (Caveat: I don’t always fully agree with everything she teaches, but this was too good not to share). She gave a brief 1.5 minute sermon on Advent (means “the arrival of a notable person, i.e. Christ). She shared one of her favorite Christmas scriptures:“For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
She said, “There is just something about seeing Jesus as a Holy Thief… Instead of making Christmas lists of things we would like for Santa to bring to our house… we make ‘Advent lists’ as a church, stuff we would really like for Jesus to abscond with in the middle of the night!”
Abscond means “theft; to depart in a sudden and secret manner.”
She talks about needing a “Holy Thief” to come and take all of the things that overwhelm and weigh us down:
“My body image issues, love of self, my obsession with trying to be worthy, the fact that I have 10 pairs of shoes too many…”
So I started thinking about what would be on my list… and busyness was at the top. What is on your list? Ego/pride, discontent/ingratitude, anger, shame, complaining? When I submit my busyness to the Lord and ask him to take that from me, I am left with: alignment of priorities, rest/sabbath, freedom, stillness, and contentment.
2. Practice being present & hunting beauty: Gift lists
My second weapon for the destruction of busyness comes from Ann Voskamp and her book One Thousand Gifts: A dare to live fully right where you are.
She saw speed, rushing, and busyness trying to destroy her peace and joy: “In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives… Haste makes waste.” She talks about how the hurry makes us hurt.
A full life is not the same as “Life to the full” (John 10:10b). Sometimes, as Mrs. Voskamp says, “the busyness of your life leaves little room for the source of your life.” Her statements of wisdom line up with what scripture tells us:
“We are merely moving shadows, and all of our busy rushing ends in nothing!” (Psalm 39:6).
Her way of combating the monster is: gratitude, being present, intense, intentional observation/noticing the gifts that are all around me right now. This slows us down. This teaches us to be “beauty hunters”. So, she started a list of her own… a ‘gift list’… a list of everyday, ordinary things that we appreciate, but miss when we are rushing and busy (her goal is to write about 1,000 of these moments).
I started one of my own, and already feel a greater measure of joy and peace from moment to moment: 9. the smell of baby’s hair after her bath, 21. the sweet crispness of apple slices, 27. eye-contact in the mirror when we are brushing our teeth before bed, 32. pink-soaked clouds at sunrise
This Christmas, maybe we can try to write a different kind of list. I don’t want to have another rushed “check-list Christmas” but one that, instead, reflects my hearts desire to be still, and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). To know that He is Emmanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14).
“Wherever you are…be all there” -Elisabeth Elliot