Columns, Positive Parenting

Busy!

Tim Kreider wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times titled “The ‘Busy’ Trap.” It was a reminder that already we are filling our schedules to overflowing. Do you remember how it felt last year? Madly racing from one holiday preparation or task or celebration to the next thing on the calendar, we have no time to build or cherish family relationships.

Marilyn Sharpe

Today, a church ministry friend exclaimed, “It’s going to be a busy season!” I gently inquired, “Must that be a foregone conclusion?”

In a world addicted to busyness, people are frazzled, stressed, burned out, and exhausted. We are out of breath; panting to catch up; racing to do, do, do. Our society seems to be experiencing an epidemic of “too busy.”

Family time is often the first casualty of busyness.

So often, when we ask a friend or acquaintance, “How are you?” the response is, “Oh, I am so busy!” Can you even remember a time when you heard, “I am not quite busy enough. I’ve got some spare time, and I am trying to figure out how to fill it.”

Racing past God

Why is there this addiction to busyness? If I am overly busy, it really isn’t a complaint, but bragging rights. It declares, “I am really important. The earth probably would not rotate on its axis if I slowed down or stopped.” And so we work too many hours, work out, volunteer, take classes, help others, enhance our resumes. All good things, but too much. And, there is a price to be paid.

What’s the price and who pays it? In my life, three pay big time.

First, it is my family, the ones I love most in the world. They get me, depleted by all that busyness, exhausted, impatient, and crabby.

Second, it is my body — I don’t feed it well enough or rest it well enough or move it enough. I am perpetually flirting with getting sick — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Third, it is my relationship with God. I race past the God who created, redeems, and loves me, without pausing for those still, replenishing times that fill me up to serve God’s world. I have forgotten God’s example, God’s commandment, and God’s invitation to re-creation in observing the Sabbath — resting in God’s presence, recapturing the natural, healing, restoring rhythms of a life well-lived.

I don’t even say, “thank you” for all God’s goodness. I don’t listen for God’s living Word for me today.

Perhaps worst of all, I am modeling this crazy busyness to the children and grandchildren I love. It is contagious, and I don’t want those beloveds to “catch” it. We trade busyness for knowing one another, for time to daydream and create, to be present with one another. Family time is often the first casualty of busyness.

With our children, we often make them busy to keep them amused and entertained, to enrich their learning, and to build a college résumé. But, they are losing relational skills, the sense of belonging and connection with others who know and love them.

Family activities

If you, like most of the rest of us, are already overly busy, what is to be done?

* Take a look at what currently fills your time.

* Decide what you will continue to do.

* Decide what you will no longer do, and bow out as gracefully as possible.

* Do this “time audit” regularly.

* Talk as a family about what you value and how what you do with your time reflects those values. Teach your children to budget and spend their time as carefully as their money.

* Place family time and Sabbath time on your calendar … and protect it.

* Scrutinize your holiday schedule. Is it all worthwhile, necessary, and faith forming? Does it give space to develop relationships? Focus on those things that really, really matter. Give some of the others a rest.

Now, prepare to enjoy your time together. Plan Sabbath time, time just to be still, to be present with God, to be present with one another with no agenda other than savoring life together.

It is God’s good gift to you.

Marilyn Sharpe is an author, teacher, presenter, and congregational coach for Marilyn Sharpe Ministries, LLC. Her recently published book is For Heaven’s Sake: Parenting Preschoolers Faithfully. Email: MarilynSharpeMinistries@comcast.net; phone: 612/202-8152.

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