‘When you want something doing, ask a busy person’. This saying is often said in jest, but it has its basis in reality. Often there are a small number of people doing a large chunk of the work. When a new task comes along, those people are already in the habit of doing, of planning, of meeting deadlines, so squeezing one extra thing in is a possibly a nuisance, but manageable. They either volunteer willingly or are volunteered by others who see them as capable.
Does this sound familiar? Nowadays it feels as though ‘busy’ has surpassed ‘fine’ as the most common response to the question ‘How are you?’. We repeatedly tell everyone how busy we are, as if busyness is a virtue. Yet my sense is that we are more tired, less healthy and less productive despite our unending efforts.
In Luke 10, we’re introduced to Martha. Now Martha gets a bad rap sometimes, but I’m pretty fond of her as I think we have a lot in common! Martha has opened her home to Jesus and those with him and is rushing around preparing a meal for them. She is being hospitable and this is not wrong – Jesus showing up at your house is kind of a big deal! However, in her desire to serve their meal, she has missed an opportunity to sit with the Lord and learn from Him. With her focus narrowed in on the tasks that need doing, she looks to her sister for help, and sees that Mary is doing nothing. This is unfair! We don’t know whether Martha is just annoyed that her sister is doing nothing while she has to work, or whether she is longing to be there with Mary and Jesus, and wants Mary’s help so they can finish faster. Either way, she cries out to Jesus and His words to Martha make something clear. Time with Him is the priority. Don’t be so distracted and focussed on the things you are doing, that you miss out on the moments of being with God.
Is this something you do? As a busy person, I certainly can become focused on the important tasks on my to-do list, and they often are important. However in my focus on those tasks, I can put off and put off my quiet times until the tasks are all done…but I never quite get to the end of that list. I cry out to God that it’s unfair and I need help to get through my list! But I think what Jesus said to Martha is His message to us too: stop and spend time just being with Him. Stop before the list is complete, even when there is a pressing deadline. Don’t miss those special moments in God’s presence.
Don’t be so distracted and focused on the things you are doing that you miss out on the moments of being with God
Your value does not depend on what you achieve
Busy person: your value is not based on how much you do. Your value does not depend on what you achieve, nor is it impacted by another’s opinion of you. You are a precious and valued child of God. Your identity as His beloved child is unshakeable. First and foremost, that is who you are, by His grace. Just let that sink in.
Our Father God invites us to rest. He gave us the command to keep the Sabbath, a day of rest set apart to the Lord. He knows we need it and it demonstrates our trust in Him that we stop for a day, believing He will provide for our needs despite our lack of work, as we rest in Him. After Jesus sends out the twelve disciples and they have returned full of stories of all the things they have done, Jesus responds by saying: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” He knows what we need, a pattern of work and rest. The world will not stop spinning if you step out of the flow for a break.
So let’s look at that to-do list of yours for a moment, not to see what task to cross off next, but to prayerfully consider the content. As you look down the list, take a few moments to ponder these questions:
- What is your attitude towards this list?
Do you grumble your way through it? Procrastinate? Enjoy the challenge?
- How many of the tasks relate to a role or responsibility you have?
Are they essential tasks? If not, what is their purpose? Is the number of roles you do sustainable?
- Which ones do you enjoy?
Which are you good at? Which drain your energy?
- Which tasks could be done by someone else?
Why are you doing these tasks? What prevents you from handing them over to someone else?
- Do you fear not being busy?
- Does spending time with God always get pushed to the bottom of your list?
Why might this happen?
I encourage you to take a marker to your to-do list and blot out any unnecessary tasks. Take steps to delegate and pass on tasks that you don’t need to be doing (more on how to do this in a future post). But most importantly, fight to protect and prioritise your time with the Lord. Whatever that looks like for you, be it quiet prayer and bible study, a walk in the countryside, getting to the midweek Eucharist – whatever helps you encounter God and know Him more, prioritise it. Rest in Him. He will strengthen and nourish you with His love and grace. This is your choice.
whatever helps you encounter God and know Him more, prioritise it