Monday, August 24, 2015

The Violence of Busyness

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
                                                                ---Thomas Merton

I come back to the quote time and again as a touchstone to remind me not to get caught up in the frenzy of busyness, which occurs as much in the church as it does in life outside the church.

If the Kingdom of God is characterized by peace and love, a church that gets carried away by our culture’s fast pace is a violent church, not a representation of the Kingdom of God.

When the church fails to model a rhythm of work and rest, service and Sabbath, community breaks down. Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives, says that our lack of rest and reflection means that when we solve problems, “we do so frantically, desperately, reactively, and badly. . . In the soil of a quick fix is the seed of a new problem, because our quiet wisdom is unavailable. . . When we are moving faster and faster, every encounter, every detail inflates in importance, everything seems more urgent than it really is, and we react with sloppy desperation.”

I have seen the destruction that happens when people try to do too much too fast. People are hurt, and as Muller says, the quick fix mentality breeds new, and often worse, problems. Living with a frantic urgency is not the way Jesus lived. Jesus looked at and listened to people. Even when he was beckoned to save the life of a child, he was so in tune with his inner wisdom that he could feel someone touch his robe for healing (Luke 8:40-56). He did not get in a hurry.

Wisdom does not come from consuming more knowledge and experiences. Wisdom is born and grows in silence, solitude and Sabbath. When we honor our need for rest, we allow God to be God for us. When we act as though we cannot rest, that we must be always involved in frantic activity, we say by our busyness that we do not trust God to act. And when we have, even implicitly, decided that we must act for God, it is only a small step to the violence that leads to decisions and actions that hurt instead of heal others.

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