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Breaking the Pattern of Busyness
I will never forget my first part-time job as a medical office assistant in a busy physiotherapy clinic. Many people do not understand what I mean by busy though. This clinic scheduled two patients at the same time every fifteen minutes from opening to closing hours. To be honest, I didn’t know how unconventional this was until was much later. If I wasn’t picking up a phone call, I was scheduling someone’s next appointment, If I wasn’t scheduling someone’s appointment, then I was working on billing, if I wasn’t billing I was filing, if I wasn’t filing I was making new files, if I wasn’t making new files, I was cleaning … the list goes on. In fact, doing nothing, was never an option, for fear that someone would think you were being lazy! Maybe some of you can relate. The truth is, being busy is often rewarded in our world, because it somehow translates to being productive, successful, and better. And while this may be true at times, it’s not always the case. Busyness can lead to making mistakes, being unsafe, or missing good opportunities. In Pastor Dave and Pastor Cheryl’s message this past weekend titled, “How God Wraps a Present”, they mentioned how we can be wrapped up in our busyness, to the extent that we become “insensitive to what God is doing”. If busyness has been your daily reality and you’re wanting to break this pattern in your life, it’s time to reprioritize, slow down, and develop new patterns.
It was sometime in early 2020 that I had an interesting conversation with a friend about all the things she was doing and how tired she was. It made me think about all the things I was doing and reflect on how I was feeling too. I recall penning some words down on paper and turning it into a spontaneous song:
Running, I’m running,
I’m running, I’m running
Can someone tell me why,
I’m running, I’m running
Pressure is mounting and,
I’m running, I’m running
Is there a place for me to go
Where I can rest this weary head of mine
Can someone tell me what’s the point
Of all this running around
Maybe I, just need to be still,
Maybe I, just need to be silent
To hear the voice, that’s deep inside
To hear the voice, the voice of my Maker
In John 10:27-28, Jesus speaks to God’s people in the temple, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand” (NKJV). The Bible often refers to God’s people as sheep and Jesus as our Shepherd. The sheep has a special relationship with the shepherd and thus follows the voice of its shepherd. Similarly, we must determine how important our relationship with Jesus is. How important is hearing His voice in our daily lives? Because unless we decide in our mind and heart, the importance of hearing God’s voice, this will never be a priority in our busy lives.
In his book, “Living the Spirit-formed Life”, Jack Hayford writes, “I have chosen to begin my listing of the disciplines of the Spirit with a call to commit to hearing God’s voice. My reason for selecting this starting place is simple: That’s the way we began our life in Him!”1 This commitment to hearing God’s voice is what motivates us to reprioritize our days so that we can be better oriented to hear our Lord. A question you may be thinking though… but how can I hear God’s voice? Hayford, actually goes on to write in his book, at least seven different ways God speaks and has spoken to humankind:
- Through His creation and majesty (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20)
- Through the moral sense placed in human conscience (Romans 2:14,15)
- Through evidential instances of divine providence (Genesis 28:10-17; Acts 16:7)
- Through signs and wonders or prophetic promptings by the Holy Spirit (2 Kings 2:15; Acts 13:12; 1 Corinthians 14:5, 22-26)
- Through His still small voice addressing our hearts (1 Kings 11:12; Isaiah 30:21; Acts 10:9-12)
- Through His authoritative Word, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21)
- Through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:1-12; Hebrews 1:1-4)2
Breaking the pattern of busyness in our lives will first need to start with prioritizing God’s voice in our lives and committing to hearing Him in all the ways mentioned above and more every day.
Perhaps you can relate to this – I’m chatting with mom, preparing our family meal in the kitchen when the doorbell rings, but we completely miss it because the vent is on and there is music playing in the background. Later, we get a call from a family member telling us that they have been ringing the doorbell for the last 5 minutes! Jesus speaks in Revelation 3:20, to the lukewarm church, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (NKJV). Motivation and intent is important, but anyone who has ever started a new exercise regime or diet, knows that’s not enough. It’s great to want to hear God’s voice, but if we don’t purpose to slow down, take time, and create margin in our lives to acknowledge and be close to Him each day, our intentions will only be intentions.
In his book, “The Emotionally Healthy Leader”, by Peter Scazzero, he describes loving union with God as follows:
In loving union, we keep that door [referencing Revelation 3:20] wide open. We allow the will of God to have full access to every area of our lives, including every aspect of our leadership – from difficult conversations and decision-making to managing our emotional triggers. Cultivating this kind of relationship with God can’t be hurried or rushed. We must slow down and build into our lives a structure and rhythm that make this kind of loving surrender routinely possible.
The question we must wrestle with is this: In what ways does my current pace of life and leadership enhance or diminish my ability to allow God’s will and presence full scope in my life? Any spiritual practices we may choose then become a means to that end, not the end themselves.3
There’s no doubt living such a surrendered life is challenging, because the demands and pressures around us can seem overwhelming. Recognizing this is the first step. Perhaps the next step will be to take some time in our day to pause and assess how attentive and open we are to God in our lives. Or maybe slowing down will look like taking a day off to reflect on our desire to hear God, journal our thoughts, and take time to be quiet before the Lord as to what needs changing in our lives. The key here is to intentionally slow down, create space, margin, in our day to be with God.
Develop New Patterns
Growing up in an Asian household, there were certain patterns or rules, if you will, that we followed. For instance, when you come home, it is important to greet your elders as soon as you walk in the door. When it’s time to eat, it’s important to call each person to eat before actually eating. Or when you want to fill your tea cup with more tea, you need to fill everyone else’s tea cup first before filling your own. These may not be the same for every Asian household, but there may be similarities. Whenever I went over to other people’s homes of different cultures, it was really jarring to me to see different rules being followed. But over time, I was able to adapt to my surroundings and enjoy learning about the different traditions people had in their homes.
In the book of Daniel, we see that Daniel is living in a completely foreign culture that in essence tries to pull him away from God, but Daniel persists in a regular practice of prayer three times a day (Daniel 6:10), even though doing so could have cost him his life. Daniel prioritizes God amidst a busy schedule being groomed as a potential leader in the Babylonian Empire. As we get to know Daniel, we know that God gives him incredible wisdom in carrying out his duties, and the Holy Spirit enables him to live faithfully to the Lord. Daniel is a great example for us to follow. His story is also a wonderful encouragement for us as well, because it reminds us that we do not have to let our work, home, or school environment dictate what our walk with God will look like. We have the ability to choose and the Holy Spirit is ready to help us!
Pastor Ken Shigematsu writes in his book, “God In My Everything”, the following about the patterns in our lives:
Every thoughtful person has a pattern of practices or habits, a rhythm he or she lives by – even if they have never put their “rule” into words. Take a moment to think about the “rule” you live by. Perhaps you walk your dog each morning, go to church on Sundays, or have pizza with your extended family on Thursday evenings. These patterns are part of your rule. They reflect something you consciously or unconsciously value: caring for your dog, worshiping in community, spending time with your family.
Monks choose to live a monastic life because they want to organize their lives around a divine center. You may never join a monastery, yet you likely share in that yearning to center your life on Christ … In fact, the more immersed we are in the world with all the pressures that pull us away from God, the more helpful a rule of life will actually be.4
How beautiful to know that we can center our lives around Christ. We don’t have to be busy doing what everyone else is doing. We don’t have to be sucked into unhealthy patterns that do not serve our relationship with Jesus. We can develop new patterns, better patterns, that allow us to remain open to God, and draw us closer to Him.
If we find ourselves too busy to enjoy God, to hear Him, and to follow Him, it’s time to reprioritize God in our lives, slow down to hear Him, and develop new patterns that help us center our lives around Him. We don’t want to reach the end of our lives having achieved many things, but lost the reason for our existence and the calling of God on our lives. We were made to be close to God, to know Him, and walk with Him (Acts 17:28). He has given each of us unique gifts and abilities to be used to fulfill the great commission for His people, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV). The Spirit of God is ready and able to help us in our weaknesses, let’s allow Him to guide us in taking whatever next step is needed in our lives so that we may experience loving union with our Lord every day.
1 Hayford, Jack, Living the Spirit-formed Life. Ventura: Regan Books, 2001, p.25.
2 Hayford, Jack, Living the Spirit-formed Life. Ventura: Regan Books, 2001, p.29-30.
3 Scazerro, Peter, The Emotionally Healthy Leader. Grand Rapids, 2015, p.120.
4 Shigematsu, Ken, God In My Everything. Grand Rapids, 2013, p.29.