I would like to heartily recommend the book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Pastor Kevin DeYoung. It's a short book, and it's entertaining, helpful, and well written. This book is not for all Christians. Some people are spending too much of their lives watching television. But I know many of you, our supporters, are probably doing too much, always running around, or you are doing too much for the wrong reasons. If that is you, you could benefit from reading this short book.
This book was written for me. I struggle with pride, people-pleasing, and wanting to be important. I struggle with feeling guilt that I'm not doing enough, not teaching enough, not caring enough about people, not reading enough, and not praying enough. All of that makes me over-commit and try to do too much, and I end up being too busy.
On top of all of that, I'm quite OCD, and that causes me to rigorously schedule my life to try to make sure I'm staying on top of everything: making sure I spend enough time with friends and family, getting to know the neighbors, exercising, staying on top of Greek, Hebrew, Swahili, and Ateso languages, having devotions, writing blog posts, writing new curriculums, reading theology books, mentoring leaders, talking to my accountability partner, having prayer time with Sara, etc. I get so stressed out about trying to live a perfect and balanced life, and I don't want to forget anything, so I end up writing down on my planner everything, even things like "shave." It's embarrassing but true. Then I feel guilty when I fail to achieve doing all of this.
I know those feelings are stupid and unrealistic. I've been working against these tendencies for the last 10-15 years. I've learned how to say "no" without feeling too guilty, and I've really learned to treasure one day of rest each week. And I make sure to spend some time just relaxing by watching movies with Sara, or playing computer games. But this book gave me some more practical tips and insights to continue working on my problem. It gave me the needed reminder that I can't do everything. I shouldn't try to do everything. De Young reminded me that I can "care" about many causes and many people suffering in the world, but I can only really do anything about one or two causes / issues in a passionate way.
A good quotation:
"Jesus didn’t do it all. Jesus didn’t meet every need. He left people waiting in line to be healed. He left one town to preach to another. He hid away to pray. He got tired. He never interacted with the vast majority of people on the planet. He spent thirty years in training and only three years in ministry. He did not try to do it all. And yet, he did everything God asked him to do."
Let me tell you about one of his ideas that has helped Sara and me already. It's called "planning for margin." You can't fill up your whole schedule. You need to leave some white space, some margin, in your schedule for the things that come up that you have not prepared for. So Sara and I have already started reminding each other to do this. In Uganda, a lot of unexpected things can happen that really mess up our schedule (probably true everywhere). The power is off, start the generator! The water is off! The chickens are loose! The neighbor is at the gate and wants to talk to me. A friend calls and says they need to come over to ask for a loan. There is a snake in the yard! The vehicle needs to be fixed, but we have to take it to Mbale or Kampala. We get home from a long week of training to 100 emails waiting for us. We have learned to plan some blank days here and there for catching up on stuff and working on long term projects like curriculum writing. But sometimes we never even get to working on projects those days because of all the other stuff that comes up.
De Young also talked about setting priorities. This was a very helpful reminder. I can't do everything, and in this culture I have to disappoint people a lot. I cannot give money to every person who asks. I cannot go to every wedding or burial. I cannot say "yes" to every teaching or preaching invitation. I end up saying "no" a lot and it hurts, because most of the time it is concerning something I really want to do and something that would be really meaningful. Maybe one solution is for another missionary pastor to come and join our team here! There is certainly plenty of work to do.
Near the end of the book there was a surprising section on how we do need to be busy much of the time. We need to work hard, care about people, and get involved in the messiness of their lives. As Christians, we WILL be busy. And being busy is hard. But De Young points out that we should not expect the Christian life to be easy. s we can expect suffering as Christians, we can always expect busyness. But there is a healthy kind of busyness and an unhealthy kind of busy that he talks about in the rest of the book. A lot depends on how much rest we are getting, our priorities, our motivations for what we do, and what we are actually doing with our time.
He points out that even the apostle Paul had stress from busyness. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul talks about all of the suffering he has gone through. In verses 27-28, Paul ends with: 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. If Paul had stress and worry, thinking about all he had to do for his churches, then surely we will be busy sometimes also, and sometimes have stress. But we persevere, God helping us. We focus on Christ and the good news of the Gospel, and it is our joy in Christ, and knowing God's love that keeps us going.
Let me know if you read the book.