Opinion: Busyness as usual
Written by John F. Ross
May 19, 2010

In the late 1960s, a subcommittee of the Senate received expert testimony on the anticipated effects of advancements in technologies that would allow people to accomplish their work faster and live their lives with greater efficiency. The great challenge of the future was going to be what people would do with all their free time.

Oops. Not so much. Every one of those advancements in technology has served in doing only one thing: creating the snowball of urgency and hurry. Since the time of that "expert" testimony, fast-food eliminated long family dinners, computers drew people off their front porches onto their laptops, and even shampoo-conditioners in one bottle helped save time. It's been nothing but busyness as usual.

We are addicted to being busy and staying busy. We've allowed urgency to become a normal mode of operation, rather than an occasional unfortunate situation. Everything is a rush and everyone is in a big hurry. As thoughtful people of faith, it is increasingly important to remember the words of Carl Jung: "Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil."

Eugene Peterson has an arresting word for my life: "Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. Busyness is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God's actions. Busyness is taking charge in ways we cannot."

Sabbath, a regular break from busyness, is the first, most-accessible means of breaking the cycle of urgency. Whether weekly for worship, monthly for a day, or annually for several days (or all three!), Sabbath is vital to our spiritual growth. Jesus knew this to be true and regularly withdrew from the crowds and the busyness to embrace a slower pace. Our mythological prelude of Genesis includes a day of rest even for God.

A rabbi being interviewed on television was asked, "How have the Jews managed to preserve the Sabbath over thousands of years?" His response: "It is not the Jews who have preserved the Sabbath. The Sabbath has preserved the Jews."

For the moment, consider the pace of your own life. Are you like me and need to make a new commitment to eliminate urgency. Maybe together we can create a new challenge: having too much free time! This much I know: we don't need "expert" testimony, we need our own testimony.


The Rev. John F. Ross is senior pastor at Wayzata Community Church (UCC) in Wayzata, Minn.

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