In spring and summer, our collective cultural busyness reaches a crescendo. This “busy” is a juxtaposition of finals and graduations, endless parties and festivals, a million deadlines and lots of vacation plans. Somewhere towards the middle of the summer, our bodies start to break down. It’s a tired far beyond general weariness; it’s more of a debilitating fatigue that has tenuous layers of emotional, spiritual and physical exhaustion. If you scratch the surface of a busy person in this state, you might get more than you bargained for.
The Red Flags Of Too Busy
It hit me about a year ago just how spent I was. The sky was drizzling rain and my family was ecstatic because wet fields meant a reprieve from the kids’ sports schedule. After church, we headed to the mall for some much-needed food and a little retail therapy. After pigging out at the food court, my youngest daughter begged to go to Justice, a shop geared for hip tweens and enabling mothers.
So in we trooped, my teen daughter analyzing outfits for the six-year old, my oldest son running off to Pac Sun and my husband, well, I don’t actually remember where he went. And that’s when I saw it, an old music video on one of the 10 screens in the store playing Taylor Swift. I should have looked away, but I got sucked in to Taylor’s compelling lyrics of a father abandoning his little girl and her fears of her own man departing. So there I stood in Justice, mall buzz all around me, and I lost it. Tears began to pour down my face, big gulps and sobs for the injustice of it all, a deep well of emotion and exhaustion erupting from my soul. I reveled in the release until my kids called Daddy to tell him Mommy was acting strange.
This is what burnout looks like. It takes high-functioning adults who are overwrought from busyness and turns them to mush. I realized this was a sign indicating that my cup might be running over with too many blessings and leading to detrimental burnout rather than run-of-the-mill tiredness. So, I added up all the things we were involved in as a family. Then, I stopped and reflected.
Is Your To-Do List Too Long?
Between work, Bible study, ministry, kids’ sports, school activities, workouts and family life, my tasked schedule was 140 hours a week. That left an average of four hours of rest a night. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t lose it at the grocery store – or maybe even drive my car into the grocery store. What the heck was I thinking?
The scary part is that I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this race to accomplish, achieve and appear busy. All of my friends are overwhelmed, too. I often feel guilty for watching TV, get annoyed at my husband when he takes time off to play and feel frustrated that I don’t have more time to accomplish another 400 items on my to-do list. Sounds a little more like Martha than Mary. But in a Martha world, sitting on the floor like Mary at Jesus’ feet is counter-cultural. It takes an inordinate effort to swim against the current of identity defined by productivity.
Where Do We Find Our Identity?
For many Christians, “busy” is synonymous with spiritual even though Jesus modeled a different type of ministry honoring the Sabbath and prioritizing time to connect with his father. While the Bible certainly encourages us to be productive in winning souls to Christ and eschewing laziness, nowhere does it recommend over-working as a means to grow in faith. The problem is that we mix up this foundational truth by blending it with the world’s definition of achievement. Unfortunately, when we place our agendas before God, we make “busyness” into an idol and it steals the very peace and joy we crave.
I thought I could confidently say that I found my meaning and significance in Christ, but when I got honest, my over-packed schedule belied my statement of faith. Rest didn’t feel like rest anymore; it was more of a catatonic collapse instead of refreshment.
Is it Time for a Schedule Change?
I wisely chose to stop the madness and climb off the hamster wheel of busy. The hard part was figuring out how not to get thrown off the wheel because I was running so fast. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy. I had to brutally comb through my activities and pick the most important things, letting go of the rest. I needed to sleep instead of nap and take better care of myself. That meant volunteering less and saying “no” more. It also meant turning down work opportunities to put my kids and our overall well-being first.
People weren’t initially happy with my decision to find balance. My boss still complains I don’t work as much as he would like and the kids’ teachers give me the evil eye when I turn down extra volunteer work at their school. But both my family and I are much happier. We aren’t crazy rushed anymore, minor health issues have disappeared and I’m closer to God because I have time for him. It’s a huge relief to let go of the expectations of having to do it all. The world around us tells us that busyness equals success, but it’s a lie. Our identity is solely based on who God says we are not how busy we are.
There’s an old saying that comes to mind: “If the devil can’t make you sin, then he’ll make you busy.” Is it time for you to step off the hamster wheel of busy?
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