Our family is in the middle of a very busy season. We just bought a home that we’re remodeling ourselves (with an awesome army of volunteer labor), we’re neck-deep in adoption paperwork, we have four growing children, and I’m in my first year as Lead Pastor of Poquoson Baptist Church–a job that keeps me busy all by itself with teaching, preaching, praying, writing, vision-casting, restructuring, leadership development, discipleship, counseling, visitation, staff management, and much more. So how can we handle our busyness well? While we certainly aren’t the gold standard, God has taught us some valuable lessons through many busy seasons in life. Here are just three lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Learn to Say No
One of the most important keys to surviving busyness is learning to say “no.” Saying yes to everything is not loving. It’s actually harmful to those closest to you and it will keep you from doing anything as well as you could if you did less.
Think about Jesus. There were many things He didn’t do. He didn’t travel very far from His hometown. He didn’t write a book. He didn’t personally invest in everyone He met (He even told His disciples that sometimes they needed to shake the dust off their feet). Jesus didn’t do everything, but was very strategic in how He spent His time.
Of course one of the keys to saying no is learning to say no to the right things. Too often we say no to the wrong things. Here’s a simple test for the busy Christian: do you feel too busy to invest in disciple-making relationships with other Christians in your local church? If yes, guess what? You’re too busy! Just think about it for a second. You’re saying that you’re too busy to do the very thing that Jesus told His church to be busy doing just before He ascended into heaven. “Sorry Jesus, I was too busy coaching little league. Or binging Netflix. Or attending planning meetings at church. Or fishing.” Not going to cut it, Christian. If you’re too busy to make disciples you’re too busy. Learn to say no.
In six days God created the world and on the seventh day He rested. Not because He was tired, but because He wanted to show us that we need to rest. Let me repeat that: we need to rest.
Now I’m a pastor, so I have the joy of being paid to do in the local church what many others volunteer to do. But let me say this to you, my brothers and sisters: if you’re crazy busy you’ve got to take time to Sabbath weekly. And by Sabbath I mean take a day away from work, from church activities, and from frantic errand-running to just relax. Sleep. Watch Netflix. Work in your garden. Go to the beach. Work on a puzzle. Play video games. Go for a hike. Read a book. Whatever relaxes you, take one day a week to do that and do it well.
By God’s grace I fight really really hard to take one day a week to simply rest with my family. No errands. No church work. No impromptu meetings. Just spending time together enjoying one another for God’s glory. Now I know that for some of us this is incredibly difficult, especially if one of our off days is Sunday and we’re in a particularly busy season. So give yourself some grace and take the time when you can as frequently as you can. And learn to implement the principle above.
Get Away Occasionally
Finally, if you’re going to survive busyness you will be greatly helped if you learn to take occasional times to get away. A weekend getaway, a week-long vacation, a night at a bed and breakfast. We’ve done all these things many times in our short (almost) 11 years of marriage. And God has blessed us richly in these getaways. We learned a long time ago that some of the most valuable memories we make are not made in our zip code. So get away, Christian. But fight to do so in such a way that your times away from your church family are rare (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Some of you are parents and you’re laboring to have quality time with your kids, even if you can’t get much quantity time with them. But here’s the cold hard facts: often times you won’t get quality time if you don’t have quantity time. So get away and spend large chunks of time with those you love dearly.
Christian, if you’re crazy busy you need to take some time to self assess. Ask yourselves these questions:
- What are the things I should be saying “no” to that I’m not? What are the things I should be saying “yes” to?
- How am I doing with a weekly Sabbath? (If you really want to know how you’re doing, ask your spouse or someone very close to you)
- When’s the last time I got away with those most important to me?
And one more thing: if you want to dig a little deeper here I highly recommend Kevin DeYoung’s marvelous little book Crazy Busy. It’s one of those books I told myself a few years ago I should re-read every year. I guess it’s time to get busy.
© M. Hopson Boutot, 2017
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