Most of the time, I live in a state of low-grade despair about all the books I will never be able to read. Choosing what to read next often feel likes an overwhelming decision. While some people have complex systems, I choose books on a whim, maybe because a friend recommend it, or because I found a used copy at the bookstore, or because my library hold finally came in. I just sort of trust that I will land on the things I need to be reading when I need to be reading them.
It usually works out.
Recently, I saw multiple bloggers make reference to the book Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. As I often do, I popped over to the public library’s web site and requested a hold.
Crazy Busy’s subtitle is, “A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) big problem.” In the first chapter, DeYoung writes, “On most days, my responsibilities, requirements, and ambitions add up to much more than I can handle.” He writes about the cultural pandemic in which “busy” is the expected answer to “How are you doing?” and goes on to identify three dangers of busyness and seven diagnoses that might cause busyness in our own lives.
I picked up book from the holds shelf and began reading it, but I admit that I was thinking, “This book isn’t relevant to me right now.” My life feels pretty…well…unbusy. I’m not working. The boys aren’t in daycare or any scheduled activities. We go to small group most Tuesdays, and Evan plays soccer on some Thursday nights, but that’s about it. I wondered if I really wanted to hand over my precious reading time or if I should just return it to the library. (It’s a good thing the book is short or I definitely would have.)
I thought, “This doesn’t apply to me,” but had the sense that Jesus was kindly saying, “Not so fast, missy.” I kept reading.
Almost every Sunday night, Evan asks, “What’s going on this week?” And most of the time, I grumpily respond, “Nothing.” It’s true that my calendar and schedule are pretty flexible these days. But it’s also true that I feel disappointed and resentful of that.
A few Saturdays ago, we popped into a new coffee shop. The place was full of college students, writing papers with textbooks flipped open on their tables. The whole time we sat there with our coffee, I felt a tide of jealousy rising within me, and it’s been bothering me ever since. Why was I feeling that way?
It hit me later as I read DeYoung’s book: I look at empty calendar squares and mistakenly interpret them as indicating a lack of accomplishment, lack of productivity, lack of involvement, lack of…whatever. I was jealous of their deadlines and their (assumed) sense of accomplishment and the fact that they are working toward something, and someone out there will care whether or not it’s done.
Given the age of our boys and our cross-country move, my empty calendar isn’t surprising. But for all the time I’ve spent lamenting my lack of obligations and accomplishments, I’ve never once stopped to ask Jesus, “How would You like me to spend my time?”
In the final chapter, DeYoung writes, “I can’t fix your broken, busy life. I’m having enough trouble dealing with my own. But what I can give you is one thing you absolutely must do. Think of it as a one-point plan with no guaranteed results. Except that it will bring you closer to Jesus.”
DeYoung recounts the story of Mary & Martha. Mary was sitting with Jesus, listening to His teaching, while Martha resentfully bustled around the kitchen, caring for her guests. When she complains about this, Jesus tells her, “Martha, only one thing is needed.” And it’s sitting as His feet. The most important thing we can do with our life is to spend time with Jesus.
Crazy Busy reminded me that a full calendar does not necessarily reflect a full life. Busyness and productivity are not synonyms of meaning and purpose.
On all these days with nothing scheduled, I “get to” do a lot of things, instead of “have to.” Goodness knows it won’t always be this way. I’m sure that one day, I’ll look at my calendar and think, “Gosh, we are crazy busy right now.”
In the meantime, I’m praying that Jesus will use the open space on my calendar to make space in my heart for more joy, more contentment, and more freedom.