Busyness is in my blood.

My father is a high school teacher and coach. When I was young, and still to this day, my dad would be up before the sun and out the door working. He’d go first to tend to his pigs if there was something that needed to be done in the barns, and then he’d head to school to do something for the Valley View sports program. He’d mow a field or clean a gym or watch a game film or take a cross-country team out to run. Then school would start at 8 AM. He’d teach all day, and then there would be practice in the afternoon and then more fields to mow or game films to watch. He’d go tend to the pigs again if he needed to before finally coming home at seven or eight in the evening. He’d then sit down in front of the TV to watch a movie or a game while eating dinner, but he’d also have a yellow legal pad in front of him where he’d be creating plays and defensive sets or making lists of something in a handwriting I couldn’t really read or designing locker room set-ups and pig pens. He’d fall asleep doing that. The next day it was more of the same. Working, eating, and sleeping – that was my father.

I inherited this trait. I HAVE to be doing something productive all the time, and I am physically distressed when I’m not. I very nervously get up each morning at six, and I’m out the door and headed to campus by seven. I go almost immediately to my office where I begin working. I tell myself I’m going in to work on my practicum papers, but I end up doing Reel Spirituality work. I don’t really stop until another commitment forces me in the evening. If nothing is planned, I work until eight or nine at night, drive home, eat something simple, and then go to bed. I work, I eat, I sleep, and I socialize a little, but I never really stop. I am my father’s son, I suppose.

Why am I compelled to busyness? Because it’s how I was raised and all I know? I suppose, but then, why is it all I know? Why was I raised that way? What compelled my father to the same busyness?

I have to assume that my dad learned to busy from his father. My grandfather was twenty-one when the stock market crashed in 1929. He raised his family during the Great Depression. His first son was born in 1931, and he and my grandmother had five sons between then and 1943. (My dad didn’t come along until 1955). My grandfather must have had to work so hard to support his growing family in such a economically difficult time. From the stories I’ve heard, he carried that work ethic through life, and it appears he passed it on to his youngest son, my father.

This is just a theory. I never really knew my grandfather. He was very old when I was born and died when I was eight. But the lessons that I imagine the Great Depression taught those who lived through it – you barely have enough, you can’t trust what you have, and you only have value if you are working – are the very same thoughts that haunt me and motivate my obsessive work ethic.

I’d like to phrase those three haunting convictions a little differently though before I continue:

1) “You barely have enough” = I’ll only ever just get by financially

2) “You can’t trust what you have” = My only security is in working

3) “You only have value if you are working” = I am loved because I work

The first specter motivates my busyness because, if I’m only just barely getting by working as furiously as I’m working now, then to let up even a little is to invite financial ruin. The easy answer here is to say that I ought instead to believe in God’s wealth and abundance, but that’s wrong, because it’s still buying into a value system of “more=good” and “less=bad.” God transcends more and less. Neither largess nor lack is antithetical to a life of faithful service to Christ. Being content in whatever situation God wants me is key. Instead of thinking that I’ll only ever just get by, I ought to think, I’m fine, and I always will be no matter how much I do or don’t have.

The second specter is evidence of my faith misplaced in myself and my own ability to provide for myself instead of in God’s faithfulness. God is the guaranteer of both my faith and my finances. God provides, and even the money I make working stems from God and God’s goodness to me in helping me be employed. The first specter is evidence of misplaced values. This second specter is evidence of misplaced focus. Instead of looking at myself, I ought to look at Christ and trust Him to provide for me. My security is in Christ.

The third specter has less to do with God and more to do with my other relationships. I stay busy because I believe that other people only value me because of what I do. I have worth because of what I add to other people’s lives. In the workplace, this is easy to understand. I am valuable to Fuller Theological Seminary because I organize and manage the work of Reel Spirituality. If I stop doing that, I will be fired. This is a very explicit relationship, and it’s ok because it is so explicit. Employment is a loose affiliation, and if I decide Fuller doesn’t value my work enough, I can leave. Our whole relationship is based on this work/money transaction.

This third specter is troublesome though when it creeps into my other relationships. I begin to believe that other people only value me for the ways I benefit their lives. I think that people only value me in their church because I can run sound and lead small groups. I think that people only value me as their friend because I’ll listen to them talk about their struggles and celebrate their successes. I think that a woman will only want to marry me because I am able to provide for her financially and give direction to our family’s life. I believe my value is all wrapped up in what I do and how well I do it, so I am compelled to always be doing something to continuously prove my worth to the relationship.

It is impossible for me to believe that I am loved simply because someone chooses to love me and not because of anything that I do. It will only be by the grace of God that I am ever able to accept this as true.

The three truths then which block the three whip-like lies that drive my busyness are:

1) I am content in Christ.

2) Christ is my security.

3) True love is unearned.

These three glorious truths call me to rest. They imbue my work with a rest-like peace. Even if I find them difficult to believe, I will try to live as if I do believe them and rest.

Busyness may be in my blood, but I have been born again, and I am no longer animated only by the fluid coursing through my veins. I am alive in Christ. His Spirit gives me strength.  I am adopted into His family, a family washed in the blood of the Lamb.

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