During difficult seasons, I find it easier to hide behind busyness than face the music. The current soundtrack to my life is the heart wrenching ballad of deployment. The emotional teenager in me would embrace the angst and drown in the unrequited feelings of Ingrid Michaelson and Sarah Bareilles. Fortunately, I’ve moved on from my self-absorbed wallowing days. Instead, adult me chooses to just keep swimming, and swimming, and swimming. Seriously, Dory’s fins fail long before I stop moving. My last couple weeks were filled with playdates, errands, writing, running, cleaning, quiet time, and more playdates. An empty box on my calendar induced fear. I was desperate to fill my time with anything that kept my focus away from the weight of my current situation. Unfortunately, my busyness was meaningless, or, to keep up the metaphor, my swimming lacked direction. Busyness is not inherently bad. In fact, people were created to work. However, when busyness becomes an avoidance tactic, it exists without purpose and rarely bears lasting fruit.
I know I’m not the only one who redirects negative feelings into busyness. America is a country full of schedules. Our worth is often defined by the number and caliber of appointments we hold. It’s easy to get lost in the culture of “to do’s.” We all hide behind our full agendas, hoping their upkeep will represent a piece of us that is not lacking. It never works though. For a little while, I coast, but, in reality, I avoid dealing with the things that matter. In the process, I’m also avoiding God, because He won’t let me overlook these things.
Ironically, my love language is quality time. My poor husband can’t fill my love tank with a few authentically delivered words of affirmation. He must schedule ample time to sit across from me and listen intently while I bare my soul. I need my husband to put the busyness aside and focus on us. I feel most loved when I am searched, known, and accepted. Interestingly enough, the way I feel loved is not the way I show love to God.
If you grew up in the church, you’re probably familiar with the Mary/Martha complex. Jesus comes to the house of Mary and Martha. Martha slaves away to prepare a feast for Jesus. She is diligent and unstoppable. Mary takes a different approach. Much to Martha’s chagrin, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and learns from Him. She uses the time to get to know him. Martha, expecting Jesus to agree with her, accuses Mary of idleness in front of Him. Jesus relies,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42 ESV)
Ouch… a big part of my heart wants to defend Martha. She was trying so hard to please and prepare a feast worthy of the king. But her priorities were wrong. In all her busyness, she forgot to enjoy Jesus. Jesus only walked this earth for a short period of time. Mary understood the urgency needed to enjoy this gift. She recognized the worth of time spent learning from and about the king. Martha’s busyness was just getting in the way.
The character of God has not changed. He still wants to sit with us. It is a beautiful gift. So why is it such a hard thing to do?
Although it is a gift, it cost something. It calls for vulnerability. The level of intimacy God asks of us is unnerving. Even a “quality time" person, like myself, is uncomfortable with the depth of searching God is capable of. When I sit down with my husband, I can control what we speak about. He won’t know what I reveal versus what stays concealed. I can present the best version of myself. However, I can’t sit at the feet of Jesus without being wholly seen.
“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:4 ESV)
God knows my thoughts before I speak them. Sometimes, avoiding eye contact seems easier than facing the burdens I carry. I cannot conceal anything from my Lord. If I meet His eye, He'll make it known.
He knows the loneliness of this season separated from my husband. He knows the weight of raising my daughter alone. He knows the pain related to the loss I’ve experienced. Jesus knows.
Even though, in the moment, it seems easier to trudge forward into busyness and ignore the God who sees, it is ultimately a gift to be seen. I am a prisoner to every burden I avoid in my busyness. My schedule becomes both an idol and a sentence. It’s only when I sit down and expose the cracks in my life, that God’s compassion can begin to heal and lighten the load. I just need to leave the dishes, silence my phone, cancel my plans, and make space to encounter the living God. Not only do we get to know Him, but His merciful ways will ease our weary souls. Instead of masking my needs with engagements, I can expose them to the living God who is powerful enough to carry them:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)