Scary stories from a lovely place
I hate being busy. I hate it with a passion. And I’m not even that busy. But I hate seeing it in other people, and I hate seeing it in my family, and i hate feeling the temptation to act busy, sound busy and be busy just so I can keep up with everyone else.
For someone who’s not that busy I do still manage to stress myself out a lot. I engage in road rage, I swear in frustration, I run late, I feel guilty and tired, I yawn when I talk to people, I covet my time alone at home, I always want more time. And I don’t even have a full time job!
This is not just a South African thing, but since living in Joburg for 2 and a half years I have experienced a unique expression of it here. I think the way we drive in Joburg is emblematic of this busyness and stress that pervades all parts of our lives. Driving is frenetic. If I’m not looking out for potential crime, I’m braking to avoid a taxi that has stopped dead in front of me, swerving to miss a Kim and car sized pothole in the road, or trying to force my way into a better lane, not to mention the pedestrians who seem unphased by the speeding vehicles all around them.
Sometimes I don’t even know why I’m driving like a crazy woman. I’m not necessarily running late, or even going anywhere but home, but the busy driver in me takes over. Once a friend said the way I drive made her feel that when she was in the car with me I just wanted to get her home and out as quick as possible. That is a terrible indictment on me! And, I don’t even think I’m that bad at driving. I’m just fast. But I need to slow down.
It’s a bit of a badge of honour for Christians I think to be busy, especially if you work in ministry as a job. More meetings, more bible studies, more preparation, more helping people. But it’s super destructive, personally and vocationally. God calls us to work hard, I think his words in the New Testament, are to ‘abound in work’. But this work never brings us closer to him. Only Jesus’ hard, life losing work on the cross does that. This is the temptation I feel when other people who work in ministry talk about how busy they are, or I see that they are much busier than I am. ‘I wish I could have as much to do as they have’, I think. It’s silly.
Robert Banks wrote a book called ‘The Tyranny of Time’ but I’ve only read bits of it (I’ve been too busy). One paragraph I particularly liked says that “Christians and people raised in a Christian setting tend to take their work more seriously than others. They also place a high value on family obligations. And they are often in the forefront of community and charitable associations. The upshot of this commitment to work, community and family is, as my eldest son commented: ‘Christians are like trains—always on the move, always in a rush, and always late.'” It’s true. And it’s embarrassing.
For the last few years I have been battling to not become too busy. And I think I have succeeded. Not necessarily because I am really wise and good or anything. I just like fun things too much. I like cooking and Stephen and playing tennis and seeing friends and reading books and checking out the cool things about Joburg. But the temptation remains. That’s what I need to fight against. Bad busyness muddies the waters of the pleasures of life.
(I would just like to add that I wrote this post while I was in labour. How’s that for multitasking?)