Today I wore a pair of threadbare yoga pants and an unembellished oversized sweatshirt. I have yet to shower, and the pallor of my face is make-up free. In the blush of early morning, I grabbed a worn-out blanket to cover myself, though the air outside is moderate and welcoming. Life can be so slippery. It seems like the world as we know it is fighting a losing battle.
I am a what if kind of girl. Fueled by loss and PTSD, I live in a body that is almost always on guard. Anxiety infects even the most mundane tasks of living, self- preservation shifts into pesky permanence, and my ability to catastrophize the slightest threat is unnerving. Overwhelming losses have changed my view of life and the assumptions that I once held securely, “People are kind,” “Life is good,” “I am safe,” and “The future is good” have been replaced by “The world is a dangerous place.” Quiet amplifies my vulnerability, the slower I go, the more danger I see. Busy is my drug.
When left in silence, there are things that I am confronted with that can only be muted by my frenzied striving. When I am not busy, I am forced to acknowledge how uncomfortable I am with feelings of boredom or how frightened I am of being ordinary, how unworthy and unlovable I feel unless I am overachieving. In the absence of hustle, I am left with the realization that I have used my busyness to numb the feelings of vulnerability that attend grief and loss.
We have become a nation, a world, of thoughtless rushers. Busyness is a badge of honor. I am busy; therefore, I am relevant and valuable, I am worthy. If I slow my pace for even a moment or two, I cease to matter. With text messaging and instant access to emails and social media, we spend our days rushing about checking off list after list, distracted, unfocused, and more enmeshed in the small stuff than at any other time in history.
There is no social stigma attached to busy. The opposite is true. Busy is, in fact, a highly valued state of being. We feel a rush from the hustle; we take pride in the harried pace of our days, and we are rewarded externally for it. But one of the most convicting things that I have been confronted with over the last several days of forced stillness is the fact that Jesus was never in a hurry. So why is it, that caring for the things of God becomes our fuel so much so that we neglect the One who calls us to it. Perhaps we tend to the vast needs of others, doing the most good, so that we do not feel our own hunger. We get so absorbed in the performance trap, feeling as though we must prove our love to God by doing great things for him, that we rush past the intimacy of the sitting room to the frenzy of the kitchen.
If we are not careful, we can take relationship and personal interaction with God and replace it with religious activity. This kind of posture focuses on what I can do for God rather than how I can join him in what he is already doing. And what ends up happening if we are not careful, is that we do a lot of things, and we check a lot of boxes, but our hearts are far from him yet again.
There is no denying that our world is in a state of flux. There is so much fear and uncertainly as we stare chaos and shared grief squarely in the eye. And so, what if? What if we have been holding onto busyness like a weapon of protection? What if these somewhat idle days and weeks that seem such a burden might be a chance to do better, to be better? What if, in this strange space between chaos and order, there are lessons to be learned? What if, in relinquishing the ego of busy, we no longer feel compelled to prove to people how busy we are as a means of validating our worth? What if the security we feel in desperately holding on to what has made us successful in the past, gives way to innovation and improvisation? What if our window to the world simply needs to be dusted to gain a new perspective and greater understanding of one another? What if this unwelcome guest shifts our culture from one so obsessed with youth and beauty to one that values a face that is deeply lined and beautifully inhabited? What if, even when the air seems perfectly still, significant changes are taking place?
What if our senses have been dulled by a culture that confuses frenetic activity with meaningful action? And what if we have missed the whisper to “come away for a while”? What if this is a tender warning, an uncomfortable prodding to lay aside our wearisome labors; mounting pressures; escalating fatigue, and debilitating distractions? What if we are meant to pay closer attention? What if we surrender our need for busy for the benefit of all humankind?
And what if, in an age of constant motion, as characters in an ever-changing story, nothing is more urgent as sitting still?