Who of you, reading this entry, feels busy?
Everybody? I thought so.
Seriously, though, can we have a conversation around this? I couldn’t begin to estimate the number of times someone’s response to the question of “How are you doing?” brought forth the response, “Busy.” It’s an epidemic. And please don’t hear me being critical; I stand far from innocent on this issue. When I make phone calls to my parents each week and they ask how I’m doing, “busy” is generally my response too. Even thinking about it makes me feel a little annoyed. I’ve become one of those people, after swearing up and down years ago as a college student that I wouldn’t.
I don’t object to being busy. Like I said, that’s an adjective that could accurately describe my life at points. But beyond that, I think “busy” could easily be used as an accurate descriptor of Jesus’ life. Think about it; the gospels (biographies of Jesus’ life and teaching) are absolutely full of example after example of Jesus healing the sick, teaching the masses, and training the apostles. When he wasn’t doing those things, he was having confrontations with the Pharisees or traveling to another part of the Israeli countryside to engage in more of the same.
What’s clear to me is that God isn’t opposed to activity. But what is also clear to me is that God is opposed to activity that comes at the expense of growing as followers of him. Look at the story of the sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus comes over to visit and spend time with their family. Luke tells us that Mary sat intently listening at Jesus’ feet while Martha was busily making preparations. The sad irony is that her preparations were getting in the way of why Jesus actually came over in the first place: To spend time with her. Jesus wanted to build a relationship with Martha, but he found himself being pushed out because of the busy-ness Martha was so preoccupied with. Jesus offers her a gentle rebuke in verses 41 and 42: “Martha, Martha… you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed–or indeed, only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I think Jesus would stare me straight in the eyes and offer the same advice from time to time. Wes, Wes, Wes. You’re worried and concerned about all of these things and missing what’s really important. As I honestly reflect on what my life has looked like in the past month, I’ve let “busy” crowd out “holy.” I’ve allowed time building a relationship with Jesus to be pushed out by other things. Sometimes it’s extraordinarily insignificant stuff. Other times it’s stuff that’s genuinely important. But does it rise to the importance level that it should push out time spent cultivating a relationship with my creator?
I think the answer has to be a resounding “no.”
But it so easily happens, right? If I’m not intentional and just allow my life to drift wherever it pleases, it will always drift toward “busy.” I can’t speak for everyone, but my “busy” is usually directly proportional to my inability to say “no.” Sometimes it’s because my priorities are just honestly out of alignment with God’s. Other times it’s because I’m a people pleaser. I feel like I always have to say “yes” to commitments in order to stay on good terms with co-workers, friends, family, and so on. Sometimes I feel like I’m letting someone down if I say “no.” And quite often, a huge enemy for me is good. I’ve said “yes” to so many good things that I lose time for the great ones. But regardless of my reason for saying “yes,” the end result is almost always that after a while it will trump building relationship with God in my life.
That’s a problem. A big problem.
That’s how you feel like you’re running on E. Like you’re drowning in your life and gasping for air.
That’s how you feel like (or actually experience) a mental, emotional, and/or spiritual breakdown.
“No” isn’t the dreaded word to be avoided. It’s a remedy to be employed. I’m writing this blog after a meeting between Suncrest’s Lead Team and our elders. We were discussing an initiative in the meeting tonight that’s going to require a lot of energy and leadership from our teams in the upcoming season of ministry. Lee Anderson, one of our elders, wisely commented that focusing time and energy on these things means we’re going to have to leave other things undone, postponed, or delegated to others. Well said. He’s absolutely right. Mature leaders understand that we have limited time and resources, and we need to be wise in what we spend our time and resources on.
I think the same is true of mature followers of Christ. If we want to cultivate a deep relationship with Jesus, one that sees us throughout the seasons of our lives, we must understand that it’s done on the altar of “no.” We might say “no” to some TV or Netflix. We say “no” to obsessively checking Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Twitter 6,000 times each day (guilty as charged). We say “no” to hitting snooze those two or three times each morning and “yes” to spending time with God in his word. Over time, those “no’s” and “yes’s” end up defining who we are in huge ways. And if we say “yes” to the right relational practices that grow our relationship with Jesus, I guarantee that you will like the end result. My life over the past two years is a testimony of that in many ways.
Want to grow in your relationship with Jesus? Great! What will you say “no” to? It won’t be easy, but it’s worth it.
How about you? What do you need to start saying “no” to today?