Thursday, November 12, 2009
The Contemplative Life
I've known for a long time that I am operating at a pace that is undeniably unsustainable. I run hither and yon, usually well-dressed and put together in a car that I keep tidy and gassed up, with a neat list of To-Do items penciled in a planner that is both cute and practical. Affix smile to my face and voila! I am Superwoman, or at least, a small-town, Midwestern version of a modern day Everywoman.
When I'm not writing (which is only twice a week), I'm cleaning, doing laundry, getting groceries, cooking, baking, shuttling kids to and from activities, leading one Bible study, attending another, heading up the children's church ministry, blogging, walking the dog, potty training the three-year-old, working on One Body One Hope media (including capital campaign packets, blog, website, and mailings), assisting in the 501(c)3 process for tax-exempt status from the IRS, playing hockey with my boys, and trying to find time to cuddle with my equally busy husband. It's ridiculous.
And it's unnecessary.
Aaron's chapel message yesterday was called "Suffocation." It was exactly what I needed to hear... Almost all of us in today’s world feel the pressure of deadlines, the shrinking of free time in our schedules, and an all round busyness that exceeds sustainability. So why is it that amidst the most advanced time-saving devices ever created, we have less time than ever before? In fact, we often feel scheduled to the point of suffocation. Some call it burnout. Where does this need for busyness come from and what aspects of it are really within our own control?
I learned that there are two reasons for my overly scheduled, outrageously busy life. #1 - I am lazy. #2 - I am vain. Ouch. That's not exactly what I wanted to hear. But it was exactly what I needed to hear.
In Eugene Peterson's book The Contemplative Pastor, he outlines two reasons that we find ourselves stuck in the grind of a hyper-busy schedule. The first is that we're lazy--we don't have the discipline to put first things first in our lives. Instead of getting our priorities straight, we pick away at the little stuff because the big things (relationships, true worship, giving ourselves to our calling, etc.) are big and scary and sometimes seem insurmountable. So, instead of writing, I check email. Instead of spending time with my boys, I wipe the kitchen counters for the bazillionth time. I've decided I'm 40% lazy. But there's another part to the equation: Vanity. Vanity sneaks in when we want people to think that we're important, that our lives are worth something. That we are irreplacable. Thus the long list of duties that I vainly included at the beginning of this blog post. Though I don't like to admit it, that's my pride shining through. See what I do? See how busy, how important I am? I think I'm 60% vain.
Sad, isn't it? I've been so proud of my busyness... Of my ability to balance everything and still have time to wash my hair. But it's not the way that I want to live. And I don't think I'm the only one who feels dissatisfied with a pace of life that only seems to get faster and faster.
So, what to do? Unbusy myself, of course. But how??? Any suggestions? Ideas? Is your life simple? Or do you fit somewhere on that Lazy-Vain spectrum? Care to share?
I feel like this dialogue is far from over--both in my personal life and beyond. I'm not sure what that means, but I do promise to pass on any great ideas that crop up, offer encouragement, and let you know about any changes that are working in my life. If you'd like to join the conversation, I'd love to hear from you. You can listen to Aaron's chapel here if you feel so inclined. Or you can point me in the direction of somewhere that you've gained wisdom and perspective. Goodness knows I need it. ;)