Jesus…loves people and has the power to help, so he has one interruption after another. If Jesus lived today, his cell phone would be ringing constantly.
The quest for a contemplative life can actually be self-absorbed, focused on my quiet and me. If we love people and have the power to help, then we are going to be busy. Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart.
Paul E. Miller in A Praying Life,
Now, I’m not suggesting we take this statement out of context. No disrespect to the contemplative tradition is intended by my quotation of this excerpt or, I am sure, by Miller in his writing of these words. What I notice instead here is this idea that prayer doesn’t offer us a less busy life but a less busy heart.
Lately I’ve been wrestling with a question. In fact, it’s been bubbling near the surface of my heart for the last eight to ten months. You see, over this period preaching, teaching and writing opportunities have begun to open for me at a pace which I’ve not previously known. I have started to have more of a harvest coming through my door than I have room to store it all. All of these opportunities – particularly the teaching and writing ones – fit with the things he started to speak of three years ago. The suddenness with which these things have come, the acceleration, was a whispered promise to my heart in January this year. And so, because these opportunities are framed by an ongoing conversation with God, I really think they are of him, an invitation into a deeper fulness of fruit-bearing.
Though I have already begun to lay aside those things which are now perhaps no longer for me to do, I am still left juggling an awful lot of balls. Busy is one word for it. Overstretched might be closer to the mark, I sometimes fear! And I’ve been wrestling with how all of these juggling balls can be from God because God, so I’ve been led to believe, doesn’t make us busy.
But what if this busyness is ok with God?
What if he has even made me busy, leading me into the place where it is beyond my ability to keep the balls in the air?
I know some people’s theological dodgeometers* are sounding very loudly right now. (Did God really make her busy or did she do it?, you are asking. And even if he did, how can she hope to determine his purpose therein?) But bear with me. Or discount me as a heretic if you prefer – I almost certainly am one at some points!
Anyway, what if Miller’s right? What if the issue is not how busy I am but how busy my heart is? And what if I have to come to the place where no amount of ability, intelligence, planning, determination or hard work is actually going to enable me to do all that he has put before me? Might I then learn that what I do can be done only in his strength, not mine – the real essence of un-busyness?
Truth be told, I don’t trust God with my time right now. That’s blunt and not the most attractive admission but, thanks to his proddings, I’ve come to see that it is true. I don’t trust God to manage my time therefore I do it. Down to the last six minutes, so some believe. They exaggerate. Slightly.
I can tell you what I will be doing in too much detail for most of the next five months. And the reason for that is, I suspect, that I think it all depends on me. I think that successful juggling requires planning to the nth degree, an obsessive scheduling. After all, since it all depends on me I need to be fairly confident that I can meet my obligations.
Except that it doesn’t, does it? All depend on me, I mean.
And that is the secret of a less busy heart. Such a one turns in childlike faith to the Father. He trusts that if he has given him this work, he will bring it to completion. She doesn’t obsess over the capacity of her diary because just as it is in his hand to make impossible finances work for his children, so he can do with her time. This is not to say that the child of God doesn’t plan, doesn’t budget their time the same as their money. But they don’t depend on these plans. Because their trust is in the Father and that is the source of an un-busy heart.
I think I’m in pursuit of an un-busy heart this year. I still believe that all the balls I’m juggling have been thrown in by him. Somewhere deep down there is a faith. I know it will all work out just fine: commitments met, new skills developed, new joys in these unfolding ministries. And, meanwhile, I guess I’ll be learning to dredge this faith up from whichever deep place it is hidden until I can express it more consistently in a heart that chooses childlike trust over a misplaced desire for control.
That, though, could take a while!
* ‘Theological dodgeometer’ was the CICCU boys’ term of choice for the heresy antennae without the possession of which one was hardly a Christian. Peter and I still use the term today, albeit far more tongue-in-cheek!