A big focus of my junior year was building my resume to get ready for future job interviews. In order to make myself more marketable, I decided to add some activities. There is always room for one or two more responsibilities, right? So I applied to work with the Student Alumni Association, hoping to open up opportunities for my future. The application required me to list my current commitments and how many hours a week were required. I thought my many responsibilities looked really great:
- Chi Omega President, 10-15 hours per week
- Fitness Instructor, 3-4 hours per week
- Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, 3 hours per week
- Chapter Bible Study Leader, 3+ hours per week
- Greek InterVarsity member, 3 hours per week
- Involvement in 2 different churches, 4 hours per week
Totaling more than 30 hours a week, this list didn’t include my 15 hours of classes, plus study time. Also, I had a boyfriend and friends I wanted to spend more time with. I thought I was ambitious, active and respectable; definitely not overloaded and overcommitted. I liked my busy, sociable life. Predictably, the consequences of my busy life caught up with me...
After many painful symptoms, I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer.
I found out I didn’t even make it to the second round of selection for SAA due to my excessive commitments.
Not only was my busyness hurting me, it was hurting the people I cared about. My roommates were complaining that they never saw me. My boyfriend pointed out that I had given an evening of the week to every activity in my life, but not to him.
I was sick, not just with a stomach ulcer, but what I’ve come to call “busy sickness.”
A Sick Culture
Why is our culture so obsessed with being busy? We see it everywhere, including many of the everyday pleasantries we use. Take these common phrases:
What have you been up to? -Oh, you know, keeping busy.
How are you? What’s new?- Busy, busy, busy as always!
We often say we’re busy but what does this actually mean? It’s an easy response. It sounds good; it sounds better than saying we’re doing nothing. This is the message we receive from our culture—laziness is bad, and you will never get anywhere by doing nothing.You’d better build up that resume with extracurricular activities, but also keep those grades up! That’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves.
Beneath this cultural pressure lies a sobering truth: Busyness is a sign of vanity. My internal conversation went something like this:If I am busy it must mean that I am important. And the busier I am, the more important I am. At the other extreme, if I’m not busy with many things, I begin to feel that my life is empty and worthless. I don’t like feeling worthless, so I stay busy.
We have placed our worth and value in how busy we are. It’s a compulsive circle and our culture affirms it.
Our Relationship with God
When I was out-of-control busy, I wasn’t spending much time with God. Apparently God wasn’t that important to me since he didn’t even make it into my schedule. When confronted with my “busy sickness”, I realized something critical about God: No matter what we do, we are special and significant in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. He didn’t find me more significant when I was busy with all of my activities. What he seemed to care most about was his relationship with me and how my busyness was affecting that.
Consider Jesus’ words, from the contemporary Message translation:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Our Heavenly Father longs for us to prioritize him, allowing him to take care of our self-worth and value. He longs for us to walk with him and work with him, to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
Prescription for Health
God’s prescription for healing my “busy sickness” involved majorly scaling back. I loved all of my activities but it was clear that I didn’t have the time or energy to do them all well. One cut I made was to end my job as a fitness instructor. I don’t like to quit anything but my supervisor appreciated my honesty in knowing my limits.
Also, I was involved in two Christian fellowships, splitting my energy between both. God was inviting me to commit to one. He revealed to me that he had plenty of co-workers in the other fellowship. God placed me in a particular sorority, living with women I knew and loved. I wanted my sisters to know Christ and committing to Greek IV was God’s invitation to grow in reaching them.
What about you? Do you suffer from busy sickness?
Spend some time this week talking with God about your schedule. Hold it loosely in front of him and ask, “Are there things I need to cut? Am I prioritizing what you would have me prioritize?” Don’t hesitate to cut where you need to cut and invest where God is leading you to commit more deeply.