Friday, February 1, 2013

The "Busyness" Trap

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)
Growing up in a South Asian context I was told that if I was not busy all the time it only meant that I was lazy and unproductive. I took this as a rule of life and for the most part of my life had a difficult time dealing with quietness. The sound of quietness made me cringe and feel uneasy. The moments when I had nothing to do overwhelmed me with guilt, condemnation and low self-esteem. Not only that, I began to see others differently and judged them based on how much work they did or what kind of jobs they held. Buying diaries, making appointments, meeting deadlines, managing schedules and pleasing people became my priority and my reality. The problem now is that I am not only used to it but I also have a tendency to like it.

Often we choose busyness because our cultural upbringing values it and the society we live in admires it. For some people busyness is an excuse to hide from God, community, relationships and responsibilities. For others, busyness is their identity from which they have their sense of worth. In Luke 10:38-42 we see that Jesus was welcomed into the home of Martha and her sister Mary. Martha wanted to be a good host and so got busy with all the preparations that had to be made. But Mary decided to sit at the feet of their guest Jesus and engage with him in a conversation.

Martha got frustrated and complained to Jesus when Mary did not get busy like she did and failed to recognize her work. Interestingly, to our shock and amazement, on seeing Martha’s busyness, her frustration with Mary and her anxiety about her work schedule, Jesus invites her to sit and pay attention to him (Luke 10:41–42). On the other hand, he said, Mary’s desire to sit at his feet despite all the preparations that had to be done was a better response (Luke 10:39).

In pointing to Mary's response, Jesus was not saying that Martha’s efforts or hard work were useless. In fact, Martha’s preparations did not go to waste but served the needs of others. However, Jesus was concerned about the things that were shaping Martha’s identity. Her busyness and the approval and recognition she got from it shaped her identity, when the one thing she really needed is Jesus.

What things are you busy with? Why are you busy with them? Are you keeping yourself busy for the wrong reasons? Are you hiding behind work to avoid relationships and responsibilities?  Does your self worth and value come from your busyness? Is your esteem dictated by the amount of work you do or the type of job you hold or the kind of ministry you serve in?

The good news is that we don’t have to see value in us based on our own accomplishments, efforts, failures or others recognition of us or lack thereof. God’s love for us is not based on anything we do or don’t do, but solely on his grace.

May we say with David, “I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet” (Psalm 27:4, MSG). And, may our desire to know Jesus - the one thing worth being concerned about - continue to shape our lives.

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