Many people today are very busy. At least, that’s what they tell you when you ask them how they are. They tell you how busy they are, how tired they are, how crazy life is. Even retired people tell you this. And, in truth, many people are very busy: working, raising children and running children here and there, looking after grandchildren, trying to keep up with projects around the house, being involved in church activities and ministries, volunteering for community programs, caring for family members who are ill.
But some busy people --perhaps many --are so busy because they are busy with other things as well. They are busy surfing the Internet, e-mailing, texting, twittering, blogging, going on Facebook, talking on a cell phone, checking out You Tube, playing the latest electronic games, watching Fox News or CNN non-stop, going on Facebook once again. It’s as if the busyness that comes with everyday responsibilities isn’t enough --it’s as if people need to be constantly busy, continually caught up in something, every moment filled with doing something, anything.
But why? Could it be a way of avoiding, escaping, what more and more seems to be a scary and unmanageable world? That’s the thing about this kind of busyness: it keeps your mind off hard realities. One author has commented that “we are so distracted by and engulfed by the technologies we have created, and by the constant barrage of so-called information that comes our way” that the most responsible action we could take is to shut everything down long enough to have a quiet time in which to do the thinking required to make good decisions and engage productively this scary world.
Of course people have been busily being busy long before Alexander Graham Bell or Bill Gates came on the scene. One hundred fifty years ago a theologian wrote, “Busyness makes it almost impossible for a person to form a heart.” And what he meant is that when people are in a state of constant busyness, they cannot focus their minds long enough on what truly matters to have hearts formed by God, the Gospel of Christ, the Spirit. Instead of having a strong center out of which to decide and act and live, their hearts and minds constantly flit from here to there and their lives and world become even more overwhelming and unmanageable.
So what’s to be done? We could do no better than take a page from Jesus. In the midst of the constant demands and pressures he faced day after day, now and then Jesus would get up very early in the morning and go off to a lonely place to pray, think, and pray some more. In other words, he found a quiet place where his heart could be formed more and more by God. It was the only way Jesus could keep being Jesus and do what he had to do.
I think we each of us need such a place, such time, if we are to have a center to our lives out of which we are able to manage our lives and this world with faith, hope, strength. We need to turn away from the demands, turn off the distractions, and turn toward God and take the time to pray, listen, think.
Especially listen and think. Most of us probably do a pretty good job of telling God what we want; listening to the word God speaks to us in the Gospel and all that happens may be another matter, however. That’s the thing about busyness: it makes it hard to listen. And the other thing about busyness is that there’s no time to do any real thinking. The great temptation for people today is to allow the “talking-heads” on radio and television to do their thinking for them and simply repeat what they say, with little or no thought. Thinking is as much a part of the life of faith as is prayer and listening. Lack of thinking leads to bad theology and rickety faith that are no match for the realities of our lives and world.
But to pray, listen, think, and form a heart requires non-busyness from time to time --the courage to stop and open ourselves to God, the Gospel, the Spirit. In lives like ours with all the demands, and in a world like ours with all the distractions, it could perhaps be the bravest and most responsible thing we do.
And who knows? Maybe one day we will tell people, when they ask how we are, that we’re not that busy or tired and are managing well, because we've been to a quiet, lonely place and are strong in heart.
God be with you,