Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote something like this. I did it consistently as a teenager, then went to college and got distracted. I’ve been feeling the need to start again for some time now, but didn’t get around to it, been “too busy” and all. I’m giving it a shot tonight. Maybe it will be consistent again, and then again maybe not. But I feel inspired at the moment and am running with it.
The topic tonight is “busyness,” not to be confused with “business.”
Thesis statement of the evening: we’re all too damn busy.
I’m naturally somewhat of a loner; crowds tire me. But even I have felt increasingly isolated over the last couple of years. Everyone is just too busy to link up anymore. It became especially noticeable when I was about to deploy to a Afghanistan and people I had considered close friends for years were too busy to return my calls in the weeks before I headed to a place that did not guarantee a safe return home. That bothered me, but it was time to fly and my thoughts turned to getting the team there and back safely.
Years ago, during a sermon, I heard a line that stuck with me. It was in a teaching series called “Margins.” The pastor stated flatly “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Seemed pretty direct, equating the results of a sinful lifestyle with the results of a busy lifestyle. But it struck a chord with me and I have remembered it since. My life experience over the last few years has made me understand the deeper sentiment of that statement, which I believe is something to the effect of “the same destructive ripples that occur within people, families and amongst friends actively due to sin can also occur passively through the lack of care and concern we show our families, friends and fellow congregants because we’re just too busy to see beyond our schedules and smart phones.
To casually plagiarize, someone recently wrote that connectivity capacity is making us isolated. We’re connected to everything, yet nothing. We don’t discuss, we meme. We don’t talk, we yell. Relationships are becoming digital rather than physical. We entrench in position and retreat in human interaction. People live with earbuds in now, entranced in noise of their choosing rather than the reality around them. We don’t hear the birds or sounds of the city anymore. We live locked in the small electronic cages so cleverly offered in place of what we used to call a home telephone.
I see it even in churches now. I have learned that to most of my generation, the preferred discourse is that which is delivered electronically. I have sat in church ready rooms, when working services, to see everyone around me face-planted into their entertainment devices, rather than talking with each other. Fellowship as human interaction is apparently antiquated now, or at best restricted to mostly shallow, time-limited interactions via small/home/connect groups, because we’re really busy with the trappings of our 1st World Existences.
This directly impacts how we live out our faith. We follow Jesus a lot less than we hashtag Him. The discipleship is left to distant missionaries while we faith consumers are entertained with contemporary tunes complete with concert lighting.
Being a consumer feels increasingly hollow. The hallway pats on the back and “how ya doin?…….oops, gotta go” encounters don’t do much when no one has time to answer the phone when hard things are happening in my world. As Steven Curtis Chapman sang years ago, there has got to be something more to this life.
I’m guilty too. Yet I don’t want to get stuck in the matrix and miss out on life. As I have seen a lot recently, it’s short and fragile.
So over the last few days, I actually sat down and watched a couple of movies with my family…… without my phone! Small victory. Today in a hospital, I engaged in conversation over the afternoon, mostly pulling out my phone to keep the bosses apprised of what was happening. The urge to do an electronic faceplant was ever present, tugging at me like I’m an e-alcoholic, but I mostly stayed away from the bar! Long way to go, but as the cliché goes, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.
So all of this got me thinking a few days ago about how I’m glad Jesus isn’t too busy for us. I haven’t yet read in any of the written accounts of Christ that His calendar precluded the Son of God from taking time for those he encountered. He didn’t have too full a schedule to listen, talk, love, counsel, lead and heal. I’m guessing if He had a 24-hour hotline, I could call and talk with him immediately (no appointment weeks out needed for Him to find a few minutes). I’m pretty grateful for that, and challenged. So the challenge for me is to not be too busy for those who may need someone to just demonstrate genuine care once in a while (which is ironic, considering people in general tire me…the loner type after all).
This week, that looks like giving time for a Soldier who is in need at a hospital. My boss gave me an unexpected mission on that one. I think it’s more likely God giving me something more to think about on this topic.