I felt convicted. I felt a headache-coming-on convicted. Sitting in church, listening to the sermon, I was certain that a spotlight was centered on me. Maybe it was. Maybe it was God’s flashlight shining into the darkness of my junk. Maybe it was me being overly sensitive. Maybe it was mother’s guilt (which I’m certain is a bonafide disability). Maybe the light was the one in my heart flickering on for only me to see and respond to. Regardless, my seat was warming by the minute.
A week later this sermon is still gnawing at me. My soul feels like it has an itchy rash that can’t be scratched. The sermon topic: The Effects of Busy. Busy runs counter to Jesus. Busy is what tests my patience and leaves me questioning my sanity. Busy is a thief robbing me blind of the fruit salad of the spirit. Don’t most of us run through life busy? Ask someone how they are and most will say “fine”. A few will say “good”. But nearly everyone says: “Busy. Busy at work. Busy with kids. Busy with church. Busy with something.” Some even thrive on an over-flowing life plate with a “the most busy wins” view on life… not even realizing the toll it is taking on them.
The effect of busy is really what does the damage. And be honest, busy doesn’t bring out the best in most of us. Eventually, it leads us down a lonely, dark, shadowy road of being perpetually tired, overwhelmed, frazzled, worn-down, and my personal favorite: irritable (and this one comes with a dose of mother’s guilt on the side for free). We have limits. At some point we are left unable to listen to one more heart, pouring out its sorrows in need of a compassionate ear. When you feel like you are drowning in your own existence and assume everyone else is too, there is nothing that gives you confidence in sharing your heart with someone else.
So, when it comes to our own heart condition, we tend to bury those mental reflections within ourselves. We stew in the misery of busy. Alone. We marinate in it like chicken in teriyaki sauce. We tough it out. Suck it up. Bury it in carbs and sugar (my method of choice). Some of our busy is our own doing. We could eliminate some things from our schedules and free up some
sanity time. Saying “no” would bring on a power-trip of epic proportions. For others of us, busy is just the season of life we are in and we are looking for a way through that doesn’t involve a padded cell and the poor fashion choice of a straight-jacket. (I think those are one-size-fits-all…. no one looks good in one-size-fits-all. NO ONE.)
And I have to wonder… does this blazing, mind-snatching, can’t-remember-why-I-walked-into-a-room busy cause us to be preoccupied with ourselves and give off an aura of “go away” or “I’m not really interested”? Do we not share our hearts with others because we fear not being heard? Everyone is busy with their own problems, their own hurts, their own doubts, their own fears… we wonder… are they too pre-occupied with their own existence to lovingly deal with my junk? Will I be heard and not judged? We wonder if what we are the only ones feeling this way? Will unloading our hearts and sharing these feelings that we keep to ourselves only result in cliche advice and the feeling that what we have shared is trivial?
It’s a risk.
We definitely don’t want to bother God with the inner-workings of our lives either. He is busy with real problems like starvation, global conflicts, and terminally sick people…you know, the situations that fall into the “credible” category of prayer for a God who has a lot on His plate because let’s be real…this world is messed up.
You feeling like you’re going to lose it if one of your kids complains about the dinner you made… the dinner you didn’t have time to make but cooked anyway… the laundry that does nothing but multiply and the kid that is wearing shorts in 40 degree weather because he doesn’t have any clean jeans, thanks to your awesome ability to wash clothes in a timely manner… the dust that just won’t stop appearing and the jokers who think it is funny to write in it… the ride that of those little complainers needs to his fifteenth activity of the week… the projects at work that aren’t done… the pantry that is empty because you haven’t been to the grocery story… the stories you didn’t read… and “bigger stuff” like health insurance and changing jobs.
Compare that rant to starving kids in Africa and it seems like we are doing God’s work by keeping our stuff to ourselves because it is clear that He has bigger fish to fry. Can I get a hallelujah?!?
But. And here it is…the reality check we (I) need:
What if prayer was the antidote to the cyclone effects of busy that push us from the people we want to be to the people we don’t really like?
Unlike us, God is never lacking a compassionate ear. He’s never unavailable. He’s never occupied. He doesn’t have a door with one of those signs that says “We’ll be back at 9am. Come see us!” God doesn’t deal in large and small. God doesn’t get tired, flustered, bored, overwhelmed, worn-out, or exhausted in any way. And Jesus… He just gets it. He has experienced it all in human form and He gets us… all of it. He is limited by nothing. The effects we feel from a life of busy are non-existent for Him.
Busy cannot care down to the minutiae of life and yet the Bible tells us “…God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” (James 5:11 MSG)
- He has the number of hairs on our head counted. (Luke 12:7 NIV)
- His ears pick up every moan and groan uttered from our lips. (Psalm 34:15 MSG)
- Heartbroken?… God cares. (Psalm 34:18 MSG)
- Get in trouble?… God is there. (Psalm 34:19 MSG)
- Need a 24/7 bodyguard… you’ll not even break a finger. (Psalm 34:20 MSG)
- The number of days in our lives are circled on His calendar. (Job 14:5 NIV)
- He catches every tear we shed and records every hurt we bear. (Psalm 56:8 MSG)
- Every need we have He provides. (Matthew 6:31 MSG)
- All of our feelings are something he desires to listen to. (Psalm 34:5 MSG)
- He invites us to pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17 MSG)
That last one is a head-scratcher. Why would He tell us to pray continuously? If God was busy, you’d think He would have said to cut Him some slack and pray with a little ceasing. There would be no time to listen to our unending prayers because let’s face it some of us are a hot mess. But the reality is that there is no asterisk by those words in the bible to say “*pray without ceasing, but only about the important prayer-credible issues because I’ve got more to do than time to do it.” No, He keeps it simple and direct and says to “pray continuously”. (1 Thessalonians 5:17 MSG). He tells us to bring ALL of our junk to him (yeah, I am paraphrasing)… not some junk… not a little junk… not certain categories of junk… ALL of our junk.
Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. (Mark 11:22-24)
When we say that God is busy in the terms we use to describe ourselves, we put Him in a box and limit Him to human standards. WE limit God. Because we can only do so much, we apply that to the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-doing, all-loving, always present, one-true-superhero God of the universe. His word tells us that “if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” (1 John 5:15) Whatever we ask. It doesn’t say, “as long as it fits God’s criteria of prayer-worthy”. It says whatever. WE limit Him when we tell ourselves that God is too busy for us and then convince ourselves that we should ration our prayers to the categorically thorny things of this life. And when we do this, we put him in a box and make him small. We close the top of that cardboard cube and resolve to only get Him out when something meets our litmus test of prayer-credible… and, in turn, restrict His power in our lives. We don’t pray about everything because the God of our cardboard carton has constraints in what He can do because WE have made Him no bigger than the box we put Him in. So we, in all of our own glory, decide for Him what we will bring to Him in prayer and what we won’t.
Such arrogance. Such small mindedness.
What if we let God out of the box? What if we let Him be who He is? What if we saw Him in the magnitude that He is? What if we stopped deciding for Him what he had time for and what He didn’t? What if we believed in our hearts that He wanted to hear from us about everything…that nothing is too small or too big…that it all mattered to Him? From the minor to the major. From the tedious to the exhilarating. From the trivial to the heart wrenching. All of it… and more. God uses everything in our lives to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. He wastes nothing. It all serves a purpose. And if it ALL serves a purpose, then it is ALL worth bringing to the feet of Jesus. What if we brought our busy to His feet and asked him for rest (Matthew 11:28)?
We can’t stress Him out… wear Him down… talk His ear off. He isn’t struggling to keep up with us. Population growth on this planet isn’t going to bring Him to a screeching, grinding halt because He can only handle so much. We are but a mist that is here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14). As important as we think we are and as big as our problems seem, God is bigger that all of it. More importantly than His size, is His love. His love is something that we won’t fully wrap our heads around on this side of heaven. It is His love for us that makes busy obsolete in heaven’s vocabulary. Love knows the hairs on our heads, picks up every groan from our lips, catches every tear we’ve shed, and records every hurt. Love considers all of our feelings something worth listening to… if only we would pray to the One who loves so deeply.
With peace, with confidence, with gratitude, with faith, with all the love that we can muster… the best we know how… pray without ceasing… about our busy… about our need for rest… about our latest screw-up…about our fears…about our human-ness… because God is never busy and He wants to hear it, He wants to help, He wants to give out rest like winning lotto tickets.
As for me, I am going to work everyday on eliminating busy from my vocabulary because busy doesn’t appreciate the beautiful gifts given by a Heavenly Father that deals in love…perfect, patient, peaceful, love.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)