Busyness as Curse

By Galen C. Dalrymple -- July 6, 2009

We Americans believe that movement is good. We run or do the Stairmaster in order to maintain our health, we eat fast food to save time, we build mega-malls where you can find any kind of store that your heart desires in order to get our shopping done more quickly than if we had to travel all over town to find each different kind of store we want or need to visit.

I know that the job I used to have was mind-numbingly fast-paced -- I barely did more each day than run from meeting to meeting, sign off equipment and personnel requisitions, create and evaluate spreadsheets showing what we would do in the future and how we were doing in the present, preparing presentations for customers, employees, or the executives, attend conferences and visit customers. All the travel, of course, was done by jet because there just wasn't enough time to travel by car. And of course, don't forget the phone calls and the 150-200 daily emails that came across my desk. Is it any wonder that I felt that some days I never did a single thing that I'd intended to do, and that when I left the office in the evening of the day that I felt I was further behind than when I started?

And that was just my work life. I taught two Bible studies a week, sometimes led worship or preached, made visits, and 3-4 times a week I drove my youngest son about 120 miles round trip to the gym where he was a high-level gymnast so he could train. What did I do as he trained? Sat there working on a Bible study or spreadsheet or some other work problem.

But how did I feel about all that?

In some ways, it was exhilarating. The variety of the job was fascinating, but the pace was deadly. Still, the busyness of it all was something that, at the time, I looked at with pride in my heart. I felt that I was doing something -- even if at the end of the day I couldn't tell you what it was. The sheer level of busyness was something of a hedge around me, making me feel good, useful, and dare I say, productive? The level of busyness made me feel important (may God forgive me for that hubris)!

But it was also killing me--slowly but surely. There was no rest -- not even on vacations or on the weekends. I often would take work home on my notebook and work until late in the evening on weekdays and on weekends, too. It seemed to be the only way to keep my head above water. But thoughts of work were with me always. I suspect that your work and life aren't that different from what my life was like.

What, you might ask, is the problem with busyness? Mark Buchanan addresses that question at length in The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. One thing that he noted was this: "The Chinese join two characters to form a single pictograph for busyness: heart and killing. That is stunningly incisive. The heart is the place the busy life exacts its steepest toll."

What is sacrificed in all our busyness? Life. Families. Fellowship. Intimacy. The heart. The spirit. The moments that God would like to fill that we have given to something far less worthy. The little miracles and beauties that He puts in our pathway each and every day, hoping we'll notice them, delight in them, and give Him thanks and glory for each and every one of those little things.

Sabbath was a clarion call to slow down--or rather, to stop, and rest. Refresh. Recover and get back in tune with the rhythms and Presence of God. It was a good idea then, and it is a good idea now. Instead, we fill our Sabbath time with busyness.

You need rest. I need rest. This is not a weakness, but a part of God's intention. God wants us--He created us--to rest, take refreshment in God, and remember what's important. Let's not be too busy that we can't stop and be still and know that He is God.


Before becoming a pastor, Galen Dalrymple worked for many years for a computer company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now he is pastor of Vineyard Hills Christian Church, a non-denominational Evangelical church in the wine country of California. His daily meditations, Daybreaks, are received by readers all over the country, and several will be featured during the Faith@Work Consultation.

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