Devotion or Defection?

I find myself frequently writing about, and reflecting upon, time. There are only 24 hours in a day and I am sleeping for a third of them, so why is it so difficult to use the remaining 16 well?

Whether I like it or not, my life is lived in time and space; they are the materials given to me by God, they are my constraints as well as my freedoms.

As we have been meditating on the First and Second Commandments (New Testament versions) as a community, I have had to come face-to-face with how I use my time as a way of loving God and people. In fact, my love for God is frequently tested in how well I love God’s people. As I am fond of remembering, ‘every day is a test for eternity.’

I want to be intentional in the way I use my time. I don’t want it to be frittered away in meaningless activity, but neither do I want to neglect the magnificently mundane things of the here and now. I want to be firmly rooted in the Word of God which is living and active only as it finds a home in the lives of people who live in time and space. I want to be intentional, I want to be fully present, I want to be aware of God’s creative action already at work in the lives of the people around me. I want to join in to God’s work, I want to co-labor with Christ in the lives of His people.

For me to be able to do this, I can’t be busy.

Busy-ness is an internal reality far more than an exterior one. I can be hard at work for long hours and not be busy. Conversely, I can have absolutely nothing filling my date book and be the busiest person in the world. Busy-ness is how I carry my heart, how distracted my mind is with all of the goings-on of my life. Too frequently I find myself mentally living in the future, missing God given opportunities to act in the present.

This is not a good thing. Busy-ness is not a sign of devotion to God, but, as Eugene Peterson calls it, “a defection.” Busy-ness is not how I show affection for God, it is my way of showing how firmly entrenched I am in the Enemy’s camp. God is not against work, God is against idolatry. When I get busy on the inside I am worshipping the idol of self, presuming that I can shape others and the world around me into my image and to my liking, rather than humbly inquiring of the Lord and asking what He is up to and what He would like me to do.

I, we, need to get “unbusy.” We need to slow down and quiet our inner turmoil. We need not retreat from the world to achieve quietness and contentment, rather we need to submit every thought to Christ. Unbusy people have the time to talk. Unbusy people don’t assert their own importance by telling others how busy they are. Unbusy people are willing to have their schedules rearranged by the Holy Spirit.

Unbusy people realize that God is already at work and the purpose of their life is not so much to “do” as to “be.” Unbusy people realize that the primary purpose of their lives is relationship and partnership with God. They are successful to the extent that they interact with Him and love His people, not how much they produce or accomplish to the accolades of the world. Busy people tend to value “things” – jobs and projects. Unbusy people tend to value people – relationships and compassion. Of the two, things and people, only that latter are eternal – what are you spending the majority of your time on?

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