God has been sending me a very simple message lately: busyness is not something to be proud of.
But busyness is all I’ve known.
I’ve spent my entire life being busy with one thing or another. At first it was school, which I invested my all into growing up. I was that student who managed to get higher than a 4.0 GPA in high school. In college, I made sure I showed up to all the sporting events, was an officer in the honor society, a sorority member, maintained grades high enough to keep my scholarship, volunteered on the weekends and maintained part-time employment. After undergrad, I completed law school one year early while running a full-time business. Life after school wasn’t any less busy either. I was married, took full control of the family business, ran our church’s women’s ministry, and studied for the bar exam. Busy, busy, busy.
It’s been two years since God put the brakes on my life in the most unimaginable way possible. I was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. I know, right? When you stop to think about the irony of this situation, it’s laughable. Arguably the busiest person I’d ever encountered in my life, I was now forced to forego my law career, hand my business back over to my parents, and sit at home while people fussed over the amount of rest I was getting. It was at this moment, when God had removed all the distractions from my life that He began to speak to me.
As much as I tried to fool myself, I began to realize that being busy didn’t mean that I was a “good” person. Just because I was becoming busier, didn’t mean that I was also becoming a better human being. I had latched onto this false sense of purpose that was known as Busy, and I was constantly overexerting myself as a result. Once I was finally forced into a moment of perpetual rest, I had to wrestle with why I constantly felt the need to be doing something, anything. Why was I choosing to place so much value in always needing to have something to do? For once in my life, there was such a lack of busyness that I had to ask myself if I was happy with the person I had become and with the things I’d built for my life. Sure, I always had good intentions with my actions, but noble intentions aren’t always enough.
What frustrated me even more during this time was that while my life came to a screeching halt (and I no longer had things to busy myself with), everyone else around me was still running their race at full-speed. The more I studied the busy-bodies around me, I began to notice that these people were spending their time “busying” through life and the creation of their memories, rather than being present in the moments. As I began to see things with fresh eyes, I decided that in whatever amount of time I had left on earth, I wanted to spend my days being present in the moments, not just busy through them.
I don’t know about you, but I have had the tendency to overlook people’s needs because I was too busy doing. Again, my intentions were noble, but I was not exercising awareness. I was not taking time to stop, listen, and truly evaluate the needs of the people whom I was busying myself for. My mission was overtaking the people who I was conquering the mission for in the first place. Quite frankly, I have been the perfect, modern-day example of a Martha amongst Marys. I knew how to do, but now I needed to learn how to be.
I think it is safe to say that within us is a strong need to live a life that is worthy of significance. We want to be remembered, to leave behind a legacy, to have impacted those around us. The problem is that busyness can trick us into believing that we are living a life of significance because our lives are so full of “things to do.” In order to avoid that pitfall, we must stop and take a second to assess what we are doing and more importantly, why we are doing it.
Let’s say that your goal is to make a lasting impact on those around you — your loved ones, church family, coworkers, etc. This means that you must invest yourself into these people, and when you get to the doing part of that investment, you must consciously keep those people in the heart of your actions. Be aware of yourself so that the tasks you do, don’t overshadow the people you are doing them for.
Think of it this way: Say you serve the homeless at the local soup kitchen every Saturday of the month, but you get so caught up in the doing that without realizing it, you are more focused on your duties and come off as unapproachable or even rude to the people you are serving. Now, what if you only served once a month at that same soup kitchen, but because you are not overloading yourself with tasks, you are more relaxed and perceptive of the people you serve. You may be more likely to stop and notice if someone seems particularly downcast and in need of a friend if you are less preoccupied with doing rather than being. Being present.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons that God is teaching me is that people are more likely to remember me because of how I loved them rather than what I did or things I’ve worked towards. Jesus summed it up perfectly in John 13:35.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Pretty simple, right? We can do all the good things we can think of, but if we lack love, we have nothing. Zilch. Nada. We must take time for ourselves, to recalibrate with our intentions and God, and to consciously be present over being busy. Being present is a perfect exhibition of our love for those around us. We cannot do it all, and we mustn’t allow ourselves to become so distracted by the busyness that it overtakes us. Make the choice today and each day going forward to actively be present, not overburdened by busy.