As an American, I have many weaknesses that are simply a part of my culture. I love entertainment, probably too much so. I get really bothered when people with titles expect to be recognized for those letters in front of their name. And I feel a constant need to DO THINGS.
Romania–partly because the culture is much more relationship-driven than events-driven and partly because I’m still discovering what purpose I’m supposed to have here–has been helping me to overcome this tendency to be always busy. While I am certainly not advocating laziness, I am very much in favor of recognizing that an over-committed life is not always the best recipe for following Jesus and so intentionally creating space for God to interrupt your day.
I had a small example of this two days ago. I was looking for a pair of shoes for Cami, the oldest girl in one of the poor families whom we visit. I had gone to about four different second hand shops with no success and was getting pretty tired of looking around.
Heading to the last store in my neighborhood, an elderly woman stepped out of a shop and flagged me down.
“Nu vă supăraţi…” she began, Romanian for “I don’t mean to upset you..” but used the same way we’d use “Excuse me” in America. She went on to ask me if I could help her carry her groceries to her home since she had purchased too much and it was too heavy for her.
I have plenty of room in my schedule most days, so I was happy to be helpful. (Besides, it was a welcome break from looking for shoes.)
“I’ll give you one orange when we get there,” she promised me in Romanian, a twinkle in her eyes. I smiled sincerely and told her thank you.
On the way there, she told me how she had purchased all the groceries and then realized she couldn’t carry them all, so she prayed and asked God to send someone to help her. Lo, and behold, I walked right by the shop at that moment.
I ended up getting to share a bit of my story, how I was an atheist running from God, but then I surrendered to Jesus and he changed my life. And I got an orange. 🙂
I think of the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10), who chose to take time out of his schedule to care for a complete stranger. I think of Jesus, who could have taken a carriage from town to town in his itinerant ministry, maximizing his time to the fullest, but he instead chose to walk with his disciples (Mark 10:32, John 7:1, John 11:54).
I want to be productive. I don’t want to waste any of the time or grace or talent or opportunities God gives me. I don’t want to be lazy.
But I also don’t want to be ruled by busyness in such a way that my love for Jesus or for people grows dull and cold.
I don’t know what the right balance is for you, and I’m still not entirely sure I know what the right balance is for me. But I do know that most of the industrialized world is far too busy existing that they miss the whole purpose of life.
(I never did find the right size shoes, by the way.)