The Barrenness of Busyness (21 Oct 2012)

I’m sure many of us are very familiar with the word ‘busy’. Time is not something we have much of in our frantic and hectic lives. Being busy is slowly becoming a status symbol, giving definition and meaning to life. People who are busy are generally affirmed to be important. Therefore, the drive for many to find recognition and value makes them busily engaged with many activities and work. The danger for all of us is that instead of seeking affirmation from God in all our lives, we give affirmation to ourselves by evaluating from the busy activities and heavy involvements we are engaged in. With so many demands we have upon us, we have to be able to recognize our priorities so that we can give our time to what is most important to us. Do we regard time to nurture our relationships in the family as a priority? Do we regard time to nurture our spiritual walk with God as a priority?

The spiritual life is a life lived in the present. It is living everyday under the trying realities of pains or in the midst of joys, with an awareness of the Spirit of God. However, the awareness of the Spirit can easily be robbed by the busyness of this life when we are filled with many other things that call for our attention. And sadly, lives filled with so many activities driven with wrong motivations can only conjure up a deep sense of unfulfillment, which I call the barrenness of busyness. Henri Nouwen draws three significant attitudes that border an unfulfilled life, namely boredom, resentment and depression. These three attitudes are all expressions of disconnectedness and loneliness, which explains why there is an increase in the breakdown of interpersonal relationships. And this breakdown of interpersonal relationships makes it clear why we are finding it hard to communicate with each other in the family. If we want to improve communication in the family, then we have to make the effort and time to work on our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. Let me suggest two ways in which we can align our spiritual compass according to God’s will in a world that is incessantly calling out for our time and attention.

1. Non-Negotiable Time With God

Make a concentrated effort to create space to obediently listen and be in the presence of God. There has to be a time in a day, be it just 10 minutes, where we set aside time and space to give God our undivided attention to be quiet before God to pray and read His word. For a start we may experience an inner chaos where we can’t wait to get busy again and back to the work we have to get done. But resist the temptation of busyness and develop this spiritual habit. When is that time for you?

2. The Art Of Listening

Unless we recognize the Spirit of God in each other, we will never value community. The art of listening is a discipline and habit that acknowledges that God uses others to speak to us and grow us. It is true that in our world today, communication with one another has lost its significance. With the fast paced world that we live in, where time is a treasured commodity, communication with others gets sacrificed. No longer is listening part of the communication process. We are only looking to get our message across. Can we then change the way we communicate as a family by intentionally setting up a time for conversation? I find the best times for these over meals together or in the car ride together. Can we learn to start conversations where instead of putting across our message, we learn to listen to the heart of one another?

The barrenness of busyness will overtake us unless we dedicate ourselves to the melody of God’s unchanging love.


Brother Samuel Lim