I have a confession to make: my family isn’t busy.
We don’t have “lots going on.” You won’t really ever catch us “running all over town.”
Sometimes when someone assumes this and I respond with, “No, you know, we aren’t really busy at all,” I get a blank stare like I just said something in a foreign language. And sometimes I wonder if people think it’s because we are lazy or because we are hermits. But for anyone who knows us personally, I am not sure those labels apply. For us, it has been a very intentional spiritual practice.
A lot of Christians believe “keeping themselves unstained from the world” is found in not saying four-letter words, drinking wine, or listening to secular music. And I applaud such conviction and fidelity. But for our family, in a culture where being busy is not only the norm but also the get-out-of-jail-free card for any responsibility (e.g. “I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, you know how it is, we’re just . . . so busy.”), we take seriously the call to make room for other people in our lives.
It was not always this way.
It was not long ago that I was, ironically, a pastor, expected to work 50 hours a week, leading two small groups and a worship band on top of that. It was not long ago that we ate breakfast quickly to make sure we all got out the door on time, rushing to grab last minute snacks and pacifiers as we raced to the car.
But then we decided that Jesus (and the rest of the Scripture), it seems, values hospitality. And this hospitality was not just about opening your physical space, but just being open. Open to people who want to come & celebrate. Open to people who need to come & cry. We wanted a life where friends do not have to put each other in the schedule and where each meal was an intentional time to connect with one another.
Like the person who would love to give to charity but can’t because they are in too much debt, we were slaves to our calendar and the busyness of life.
We saw that people always seem stressed out, frantically racing to find their purpose or happiness or whatever it is they are seeking. And we had the strange feeling that all that racing was a little ironic, that maybe purpose is not at the end of some task but in finding every mundane task meaningful by including others in it.
So we began the painful process of letting go of signing our kid’s up for 3 different time-bound activities at the local gym, letting go of small groups and bible studies, jobs that provide steady and comfortable income but require too much time away from our home. We began getting up early enough to make sure we have breakfast and morning tea together, making our meals together, and being willing to be open and available to others almost every night of the week.
And for us, that process was painful, as we let go of narratives that said if you weren’t busy you were selfish or lazy. Or narratives that said we were overreacting or that Jesus really only cares about saving souls not wasting time living out an open life. But over time, we have come to see this rhythm as an invaluable spiritual practice. For us, we are enacting our very small, and very subtle, piece of the Kingdom.