Two months ago I would have looked at this graphic and exclaimed, “YES. More rest. We need more rest.”
I wouldn’t argue that point. Rest is important. Rest is commanded. But this week the reminder about busyness hit me in an entirely different way. Busyness doesn’t have to look like going 100 miles an hour. Busyness can take the form of a slower pace, but busyness takes the spontaneity from my days. I’m a planner and list maker. I work through my goals each day and feel satisfied as I accomplish even the most minute tasks. Everything around me, the books, conversations, studies… they all seem to be pointing to one conclusion: I’m too busy to hear the invitation.
Are you familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan? Here’s a refresher just in case:
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25-37, MSG)
When I teach this story to kids I’m quick to point out how the Jews and Samaritans were enemies. The Priest and the Levite should have been the ones to help their fellow Jew, but it was the Samaritan, instead, who came to the rescue. Priest and Levite = bad. Samaritan = good. Conclusion: love people in the way the Samaritan loved the injured man.
We discussed this very story in a study last week and I left with the realization that the priest and Levite could have clung to the banner of busyness. Perhaps their hearts broke for the wounded man. Perhaps they even considered stopping to help, but their lists kept calling to them. “I would stop but that would make me late to my appointment. Surely someone else will stop and help. Any other day and I would. I’m not wearing the right clothes. I must see to the needs of the people in my own village. I stayed up all night praying, I must go home and rest.”
Coming up with that list of excuses was easy for me. I didn’t pause and labor over what to include… probably because I have a rotating file of excuses ready for any given day. I know I’m missing out on the blessing of serving others almost every day of the week. I stick to my schedule, my responsibilities, and my tasks. The problem with my full schedule, with my busyness, is that I essentially hold up my hand to the Lord and say, “My plate is too full. You better find someone else.”
The opportunity to bless and help others shouldn’t be viewed as a burden or an inconvenience, and yet that’s often how I live. What if instead we were to look and listen for God’s invitation to serve before we made our to do lists, or while we were in the midst of do-ing? “Father, I’m working on this project with my earphones on in this coffee shop right now, but if you want me elsewhere, please interrupt me. I want to hear you when you call.”
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps – reading the Bible.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
My prayer regarding busyness this week: to let the lists fall to the wayside so that I might have eyes to see those hurting in my path.
Following and learning,