Happy new year! Welcome to 2023.
Let’s reflect back on 2022. When people asked you, “What’s new? How you doing?” – how have you responded? Have you answered back the majority of the time with, “I’m busy. I’m staying busy. I’m too busy. I’m tired and exhausted. I’m stressed. I can’t catch a break”, etc? I’ve noticed this a lot when I check in with people. I’ve even noticed it more in my life lately.
Busyness is going to happen, but if busyness becomes our normal and standard for living, is that okay? Is living in a state of exhaustion, stress and busyness just the way it has to be?
Let’s think about this for a minute. Particularly in our western world, there is a culture of hurry all around us. It doesn’t take long to see that most of us are in a hurry, and we are often addicted to it. So, what can often (but not always) cause hurry? Busyness. We are often in a hurry because we stay busy. There are obviously more reasons, but busyness is definitely one of them.
We are busy people. Our to do list is busy, our schedule is busy, our email and text messages are busy going off, our kids, families, friends and coworkers are busy. Now hear me out, we will be busy at times. Jesus was even busy, but not always busy. He slowed down often and enjoyed the moment. He refreshed himself and retreated consistently. He prepared himself for the busy seasons that were coming. But then he withdrew, to balance out and be renewed. (see Luke 5, Matthew 14 , Mark 6 and more in the gospels).
I used to struggle if my calendar wasn’t full. I felt unproductive, like I was missing something. I idolized busyness. From personal experience, I can say that living in this state is not healthy and is not the way God intended. Slowing down is not natural for us. When we feel unproductive or aren’t accomplishing something, we struggle. Our identity gets messed with and we can’t just be and sit in silence.
So, what’s it look like to be busy sometimes, but not all the time? How do we measure this? How do we fight against the state of a rushed, busy, depleted life?
Here are some practices I’ve been striving to apply, that may help you, too, as we begin 2023.
*Before you read on, let me preface this: These things look different for everyone. It’s not so much about the specifics, but more about the general principles. For example, I have a one year old son. I’ve had to tailor these things to the season of life I’m in, but I still need them. So please keep that in mind as you read!
- Create margin.
It is actually okay to have nothing on your schedule sometimes, where you just exist and be. This has been hard for me because I’m a planner. But it can help to literally write on your calendar, “Do nothing. Rest. Stop. Exist. Be.” You can actually plan to have margin – chunks of time where you give yourself permission to do nothing. Or to do something that is uninterrupted and un-rushed. Margin allows us to decompress and breathe.
- Put together a Rule of Life.
Just like you need margin, you also need to plan. If you’ve never heard of a Rule of Life, I would really encourage you to look into it. This is when you look at your life, and you plan things out in a way where everything is intentional and centered around your relationship with Jesus. Jesus is not a part of your life; He’s in the center of every part of your life. This process helps us take an honest look at our formation. Are we being formed more into the image of Christ, or the opposite? Start by writing down the various areas of your life, evaluating how you function in them now, and then praying through how to make adjustments in a way that helps you abide in Jesus in all areas. Work to get specific.
Pastor and Author Rich Villodas (my favorite book this year) suggests asking these questions as you work through it:
- Where do I sense the most stress happening in my life?
- What practices is this season calling me to engage in?
- Where do I have significant gaps?
- Where am I called to lead others?
- Which practices might help me to help others?
If you’ve never done anything like this, just take a small step! Here are some helpful resources to help you in that direction:
- Regularly practice sabbath, silence and solitude.
Sabbath means to cease, stop, delight and rest. Sabbath is a gift given to us by God. Jesus said in Matthew 12, “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but Sabbath was made for man.” Take a day, part of a day, or small part of your week to cease from your regular work and duties. Do something that fills you up and centers you on the joy of God. Incorporate some time with your family, friends and hobbies. Ideally, this would happen weekly. Much more can be said biblically about Sabbath – maybe a future blog!
Silence and solitude is hard, because we have to deal with our stuff. It’s much easier to stay busy and distracted so we can cover up our deep wounds and sins. But we must do this. We are only as healthy and effective on the outside as we are on the inside. If we’re being honest, we all crave this. Noise can really wear you down and it’s everywhere. We long for peace, stillness and silence. And the truth is, we need it. Work hard to engage in silence and solitude when you can. You may have to get creative and even very strategic, but it’s necessary and worth it.
- Take social media and email breaks.
I came to the realization not too long ago that I was addicted to social media. It became so much a part of my day, that to take even one day off of it was extremely difficult. After being convicted about this and seeing how it was effecting my life and family, I’ve tried to take breaks often. I even took the apps off of my phone. I remember challenging myself to take one week off last year. The first few days, I literally felt like I was weaning off something. It was bad. But after I got through the week, I felt so much peace and freedom. Now, the less time I spend on social media, the better I feel and the happier I am. In fact, I don’t get on it anymore without checking with my wife first.
I also noticed how addicted I was to checking email. I could barely go a day without checking it and clicking on the app. But then I thought to myself, “Wait, aren’t I supposed to be off work today? Why am I checking email on my off days That actually makes no sense.” So, I set a new rule for myself. I try not to check email on my off days. Key word, try!
This is just me and my struggles, but I’m sure if you were honest, you would say that self control with technology is extremely hard. It can be used as a tool, but also as a danger. I think setting rhythms, rules and limits with these things is very helpful.
- Learn how to say no.
Believe it or not, we all have limits. You and I are not God; we are finite. We can’t do everything for everyone all the time. That doesn’t mean we do nothing, but it does mean we need to discern and embrace our limits.
I’m naturally a people pleaser. In the past, I’ve really struggled with saying no to people and opportunities. It’s not until recently that I’ve been learning more about actually thinking and praying about things before I say yes or no. I want to say yes to the correct things.
But, be careful not to take this to an extreme, where you say no to everyone and everything, and you do nothing! But on the flip side, be careful to not say yes to everything and everyone, and you live your life depleted. Seek the Lord for wisdom and balance.
I hope and pray these practices encourage you as we start this new year. Grace and peace!
I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. -Jesus