An email from Anonymous
I need to take a quick survey. How many of you are busy? How many of you would admit to sometimes being too busy? Good. The rest of you can relax because because you won’t be the ones under conviction.
I’d like to start by reading an email sent by “anonymous”:
One day satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said, “We can’t keep Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their Saviour. Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners, but steal their time, so they don’t have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“This is what I want you to do,” said the devil: “Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!”
“How shall we do this?” his demons shouted.
“Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 10 -12 hours a day, 6-7 days each week, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!”
“Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio whenever they drive, to constantly check their Blackberry and to keep their TV, Music play list and computer on constantly in their homes. This is jam their minds and breaks that union with Christ.”
“Pound their minds with news 24 hours a day. Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Invade their drives with billboards. Flood their inbox with offerings of free products and false hope. Fill their mailboxes with mail order catalogs that keep them dissatisfied with their current possessions.”
“Keep air-brushed models on magazines, mall billboards and TV so the husbands will believe that outward beauty is what’s important, and become dissatisfied with their wives. These same images will convince the wives of the lies we’ve been telling them since they were young girls. Keep them too tired to love their husbands at night. Give them headaches too! If they don’t give their husbands the love they need, it’s easy for them to begin to look elsewhere. This will fragment their families quickly.”
“In their recreation, encourage them to be excessive. It’s easy, they’re feeling guilty for the time they’ve taken away from themselves and their kids. Have them return from their recreation exhausted. Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God’s creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, busy!”
“And when they gather for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences.”
“Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus. The same power that raised Him from the dead lives in them – don’t let them truly believe or act on that. Keep them busy doing the ‘good’ and keep them from His ‘best’. Soon they’ll be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause. This never fails – make them equate busy-ness with being spiritual.
“Now to help you in your work, we’ve created an acrostic. It’s simple for even the simplest of you. Think of ‘busy’ as:
Now go out there and get busy yourselves.”
Now with what I’m going to share with you today, that is the worst possible way to start. But before I tell you why, I want to share a little bit about my journey through busyness.
This has been one of the most difficult topics to teach on. I know I need to teach about simplicity because it is so lacking in the church today. Moving to what Jesus called the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28 MSG) is so essential for us to keep in step with the Spirit.
More importantly, I know I need to live in simplicity. There’s angst to teach on something you’re not living.
Don’t Have Time to be Busy
Years ago, as I rushed to drop off the kids at school to make a meeting that had to be squeezed in before my sermon prep time which I had left far too late in the week, a friend ask me, “Are you busy today?”
My unconsidered immediate response was “I don’t have time to be busy.”
Those words became an epiphany for me. The Father began to show me that I -and any follower of Christ – can’t give away our time to busy-ness.
Every morning we are given 1,440 minutes – or if you prefer, 86,400 seconds. You can’t carry over time to the next day that you didn’t use today, and you can’t borrow time from the future. Each day has all the time it can contain.
I tried to borrow time. In University I pushed off daylights savings time for a week because I needed the extra hour to study the following week. It was great, showing up an hour late to everything and being right on time. Everywhere I went I took my own personal time zone. Karen doesn’t have the same memories of that week. What she recalls is me asking her “What time is it in your time zone?” every hour or so.
Instead of wishing we had more time, we need to realize we have enough minutes in the day to do everything the Father wants us to do. This is the first secret to a life of simplicity.
Jesus had enough minutes every day. He wasn’t rushed (John 11:6) or influenced by other people’s schedules (John 7:3-6). He was never in a hurry and showed compassion with people’s intrusions (Mark 10:49). He took time with the Father (Mark 1:35) and time to recreate (John 2:2). He took time for meals, even after He died and rose again (John 21:13 ) He accomplished the work He was given to do (John 17:4).
Why is He so different than us? What did He have that we don’t? Maybe a better question is “What do we have that He didn’t?”
Busy-ness Doesn’t Equal Accomplishment
I’ve never equated busy-ness with getting a lot done. Some of my most productive times are when I have a lot to do. I’m not overwhelmed by it, in fact it’s like I come alive doing it. I came across this statement that made me ponder it’s truth:
“Busyness doesn’t come from what there is it do, but from what is left undone.”
At first glance, this statement seems redundant. But upon reflect, it confirmed what I already knew. If you talk to a Mom who takes care of her kids, and goes to works, and takes care of her family, and is there for her friends, and participates in church, and volunteers on the side... there’s a good chance she’ll say she’s busy.
If you talk to someone whose been retired for about six to nine months, they can say they’re busy because they need to go to the bank sometime this week.
What’s the difference? Why do people who are used to working long hours, feel busier after they retire?
It’s a universal phenomenon and I’ve heard lots of theories, but my answer may surprise you.
Discovery in New Zealand
In my journey I’ve wanted to understand busy-ness and when we moved to New Zealand we experienced something I didn’t expect. The New Zealand culture is so laid-back. When you indicate on a motorway you want to get into their lane, they let you in. Not just the courteous drivers, everyone let’s you in. When a repair man says they’ll come by sometime tomorrow, they come by sometime tomorrow. In church they only person I saw wear a tie was an Australian who took it off part way through his sermon. Socks and shoes are optional in church. They live by the motto: “No Worries”. No one on those islands seem busy - unless they are part of the church.
Now, let’s be honest the churches we met with in New Zealand wouldn’t be half as busy as a comparable sized church in Canada or the US. But the church culture was like ours in that busy-ness somehow equated to spirituality. And compared to the culture, it was noticeably out of place.
It seemed strange they were so busy trying to reach people who weren’t. How does busy-ness appeal to people who aren’t?”
I’ve spent some time reflecting on the nature of busy-ness to try to understand its source and so I asked myself:
The answer I came to shocked me.
So I went to scripture to see if it could possibly be found there. And I was so surprised to see my answer confirmed so easily. I had never noticed it before in a portion of Scripture I’ve taught dozens of times and read hundreds of time. The Spirit had it leap off the page and grab me.
For me, it is so revolutionary, I wanted confirmation before I started teaching it. So one day when I was meeting with our friend Cheryl Shea, author of the book “Soul Surgeon” I asked her, “Cheryl, you have a lot of experience with this... what’s the cause of busyness?”
And her immediate answer was the same one I had come to myself. She even said, “It’s in my book.”
The Root of Busyness
Do you want to know what it is?
I’ve given you clues throughout.
Why was that story I told at the beginning the worst possible thing I could do?
What do we have that Jesus didn’t have?
How do we accomplish a lot without feeling busy?
Why do retirees feel busier than when they worked?
What was in the New Zealand church, but not in its culture?
Before we explore why this might be true. I need to tell you a bit more about this journey we're on.
Living LIGHT is about moving the rhythms of God's grace to do His work, His way in the day-to-day of our everyday.
These are five things you're probably already doing, and we're inviting you to simply be intentional in them.
Disciplines for our everyday lives…
Every week, you're going to be challenged to be intentional in your walk with God. This will align you with what He's doing in your everyday worlds.
Listen, if we can get this into our rhythms of life, everything changes. Now do you want to know what the root of busyness is?
Some of you knew that. Others still are lost. So let’s go to Scripture to see what it says. I’ll explain how shame answers those questions after.
Genesis 2:22-25 (New International Version):
Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman, '
for she was taken out of man."
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Then the next chapter talks about sin entering into the world. And the man and women covering themselves with leaves to cover their shame.
And this was the judgement on the women and man. Genesis 3:16-19 (New International Version):
To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
To the woman he said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."
To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."
Eden wasn’t a busy place. God walked in the garden in the cool of the day. Adam still had work. He named the animals. But there’s no sense of it being difficult for him.
Shame causes busyness.
Don’t believe it?
Did Jesus have or respond to shame?
No. The writer of the book of Hebrews says:
...keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne.
Hebrews 12:2 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Why do retirees feel busier than when they worked?
It’s the same reason many Moms feel busy.
When you retire, you’re supposed to have time for grandkids, and friends, and church, and all those projects you’ve been putting off until your retirement. If you don’t do it, you feel shame. When you do do it, you’re doing it out of shame.
It doesn’t have to be this way, but for many people that’s reality.
What was in the New Zealand church, but not in its culture?
In almost every church culture, at least in the western world, we’re really good at shaming people to keep them in line. Don’t believe me?
Did that first story I told make you feel guilty or angry? It was trying to shame you into not being busy. But it could never work because the root of busyness is shame.
How do we accomplish a lot without feeling busy?
When we do what we know the Father wants us to do, there is no shame in leaving other things undone. When you hear the Father’s voice and obey what He says, you’re in the zone that seems to multiply your efforts.
Shame is the Root of Busyness
Shame came into the world because of the Fall. Busyness came into the world because of the Fall.
The good news is Jesus came to reverse the effects of the Fall.
And Jesus came and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Reconciliation means “to make friends again” with our creator our environment our relationships our selves
We need to deal with shame because shame will not allow you to live out your destiny. Let’s understand what it is...
What is shame?
Shame is not the same as guilt, but its tied to it.
Shame is given to us by other people.
Shame comes from being taught that we are worthless.
Cheryl (Soul Seers pp. 224-225) gives these categories for the strongholds of shame in our lives:
Devaluing a child’s interests, activities or friends
Put-downs of others
Any form of physical abuse of neglect
Any form of sexual abuse
She goes on to state the fruit of shame includes:
Feelings of inferiority or inadequacy
Secretiveness or withdrawal
In conversation with me, that’s where she so effortlessly included busyness as a fruit of shame.
That story at the start likely made you feel guilty for what you do and shame for who that makes you. It is ridiculous to use shame to bring people to the point of change about the root of shame. I know most of you where thinking
You can’t. I could shame you into trying, but that’s not helping you at all. We need to deal with the root problem of shame before we can discuss living life with simplicity.
When you know the root of a problem you can deal with it. Here’s how to deal with the root problem of busyness:
You have given power to other people to determine your worth, that is God’s place alone.
Heavenly Father, I have used busyness to keep me from feeling shame and in response to the shame I feel. In doing this, I have given other people the right to determine my worth. I have not trusted what you say about me. I ask for your forgiveness for this sinful pattern and receive your forgiveness today. Help me to allow Holy Spirit to heal the root of shame in my life.
Heavenly Father, I choose to forgive people who have shamed me. Specifically I choose to forgive (name the person) for shaming me by (incident). I release them into your hands and bless them in the name of Jesus.
Ask the Father, Son or Spirit to take you back to the place in your past where shame took root. You’ll be brought to a memory. Describe the situation or picture. Find where Jesus (or the Father, or the Spirit) is in the memory. Ask Jesus (or the Father, or the Spirit) the lie you learned from the situation (there can be more than shame). Renounce the lie(s). Ask Jesus (or the Father, or the Spirit) what the truth is. Agree with God and declare the truth.
If you have difficulty with this process get someone with Sozo, Theophostic, or Immanuel training to help you.
It is only through healthy relationships that the wounds of shame can ever be fully healed. You need to get into life-giving relationships that do not shame you into action or inaction. You need to commit to doing the same for others.
Commit as a church that you will be a shame-free community. That the witchcraft of the manipulation of shame would not be allowed to take root. That busyness would not be a hallmark of your spirituality. That you would loose programs and projects before you lose the conviction that the cross has made you all free from all shame.
Will you commit to that today?
Lord you said:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28 (The Message)
Lord, that’s what we want. We don’t want to pick up any burden that’s not yours. Because we know yours is perfect and we thank you that it’s light.
We speak to all the spirits of shame in our lives and we say “Be gone. We are wise to your ways and we will no longer in agreement with you.”.
Thank you Holy Spirit for revealing us Your truth and help us to work out its implications in our lives.