It’s said that “busy” is the new “fine.” It’s become a positive response to the casual question, “How are you?” We equate being busy with being fulfilled—having a life that bursts with projects and parties, options and obligations. We think that being busy means we’re important . . . and being important means we’re satisfied.
But the unchecked life of busyness creates a chaotic inner world. We end up living at a breakneck pace, tumbling around like we’ve been tossed in a clothes dryer, tangled and unsure of our direction.
Life in the clothes dryer gets stifling. We find ourselves rushing from one obligation to the next, only to discover we’ve outrun our joy. Everything begins to feel like work. Resting makes us anxious, and nothing feels satisfying. We lose the feeling of accomplishment in our work. We forget to celebrate. And we miss sacred moments in our preoccupation with the next thing. As Henri Nouwen noted in Making All Things New, “The great paradox of our time is that many of us are busy and bored at the same time. While running from one event to the next, we wonder in our innermost selves if anything is really happening.”
When the “innermost self” cannot be ignored, we think about ways to stop the chaos. We wonder if we need to board the next plane to Ireland or quit our jobs or change churches. We remember well-meaning women telling us that life is about “abiding” and “resting” with Christ and feel awash with shame, wondering if we are living with purpose, wondering why “no” seems to have become an unspoken curse word in our vocabulary.1