Look, I am the king of busy.
- I have 4 children.
- They attend 3 different schools. (Next Fall it will be 4.)
- They are involved in numerous extracurricular teams/ activities/ obligations.
- My job is never officially “done”. There is always more to do.
- My wife works part-time. And coaches. And runs a micro farm. And volunteers…
I’m just scratching the surface here. I could go on, but I won’t. It’s too exhausting.
It’s not just me. Nearly everyone I know feels overwhelmed, at least at times. Today, busy-ness seems obligatory. There’s something about running at a breakneck pace that feels noble, even necessary. We have a preoccupation with activity, equating it with usefulness.
In our culture you get “points” for being busy. It’s like a badge of honor. We equate constant motion with demand. We assume that being spread thin somehow means that we are important.
Those assumptions don’t hold up. Deep down we know it. Over-scheduled lives produce stressed-out people who, over time, become incapable of enjoying life as it was meant to be.
What’s worse, this frenzy of activity crowds out our ability to connect deeply with God in prayer. The constant noise, the whirring of the machinery of our life, drowns out the voice of the One who call us to, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Are we the first generation fighting the perpetual motion phenomenon?
We are not.
People wrestled with hyperactivity long before smart phones, curriculum nights and travel soccer leagues.
Two sisters, Mary & Martha, found themselves in proximity to Jesus one day. He came to their home. They had two very different responses to Jesus’ presence.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Stop and imagine for a moment that Jesus was knocking on your door. He wants to come into your home and have a visit. What would you do? Would you swing the door wide, welcoming him in? Or would you frantically run around picking up your dirty laundry off the floor, yelling, “Just a minute! Hold on Jesus! I’ll let you in soon!”
After opening the door, would you try hard to entertain and impress him? Would you make sure you had your Bible strategically placed out in the open? While He is being seated, would you make small talk with him, trying to slide in all the impressive things you’ve learned and done at church? Or would you just sit at his feet, ready to bask in the presence of the Savior who has made you whole?
Jesus knows the messes we’re living in, and He still wants us to sit down with Him. He knocks at the door. Will you stop what you’re doing and let Him in?
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
Martha opened her home to Jesus; Mary opened her heart to Him. Which one do you think got rewarded? Of course it was Mary, the one who sat at His feet, motionless, ready to soak in every word.
And what was Jesus’ reply to the jealous sister?
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Instead of hurrying about her tasks, Mary chose the better option. Her sister didn’t like it. She didn’t care. Nothing was going to stop her from spending time in the presence of Jesus.
The choice is still the same today:
- Dive into distraction in Jesus’ presence, preventing true closeness with Him.
I know, the thought bothers me too. I get so accustomed to the ways of this world that constant activity feels necessary to me. Ceasing work, even to spend time in the Lord’s presence, feels like laziness. It’s not. In fact, it’s the most productive thing we could do.
150 years a wise old preacher said,
“You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” A.J. Gordon
Could it be that our infatuation with activity is preventing us from experiencing the fullness of life offered by Jesus Christ? How do we break out of the frame of mind that tells us that inactivity is worthless, when the reality is that pausing to pray opens up the boundless reserves of Heaven?
What We Need To Hear:
We are confronted daily with the limitations of our finite lives. The war within us threatens to tear us apart as we heap more and more expectations upon ourselves. Jesus, on the other hand, promises to relieve our
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus’ call to slow down challenges our self-centric, frenzied activity, to slow down and simply rest in His presence. The act of pausing causes me to lay down the pride and arrogance of my so-called self-sufficiency. The act of slowing down causes me to say: “God is God and I am not.”
I pray throughout the day. I pray when I am about to make a phone call. I pray as I am in meetings. This practice of constant prayer keeps me in touch with my Father throughout the day. However, these quick prayers will never substitute for uninterrupted, substantial time in His presence.
It is there, often early in the morning or late at night, that my heart has a chance to calm down. There is value in slowing down, even ceasing movement, in order to focus on the Lord.
Famous pastor and scholar, F.B. Meyer, put it this way:
“Prayer means not always talking to Him, but waiting before Him till the dust settles and the stream runs clear.”
How can I experience “the peace of God that transcends understanding” (Philippians 4:7) if I never stop moving long enough to silence myself? How can my mind be consumed with the mysteries of the Almighty if I never make a break from the tyranny of the tasks of the day?
I am not suggesting that we cease activity so much as I am saying that we settle into serenity. Yes, we must pause to rest in His presence. We must cease striving in order to soak in His supply.
Slowing down signals to the Lord, and to our hearts, that prayer is important. He deserves our full, undivided attention. While in His presence we are convinced, all over again, that, “God is God and I am not.”
The choice is yours.
Pause. Pray. Stay there “till the dust settles and the stream runs clear.”
“How NOT to Pray” is a book I’m writing. Release Date: 4/30/13.
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