June 11th, 2009
As I got to enjoy more of this…driving slowly down the highways or stopping whenever we saw something pretty to take pictures of, I thought about life back in California. Work, responsibilities, task lists, packed rush hour traffic, strangers who never say ‘hello’, speeding drivers, speeding grocery shoppers, agitated high-heeled speed-walking execs on their cell phones, and everything else that says ‘Hurry! Go! Get more done! Your worth depends on it!’ flashed in my mind and made me cringe. And then just made me feel bad for everyone still stuck in that lifestyle, and it suddenly appeared so foolish to me. Even if I already knew it was foolish, I realized how much worth I put in being busy and productive. I’ll even try to look busy if I’m not, so others think I’m busy and important and accomplishing much. Sad, really.
But why is busyness so important? What does getting more done really accomplish? I guess it makes us feel good about ourselves. Or shields us from social or emotional confrontation we don’t want to deal with. Or provides an excuse from doing the things that truly matter that we’d rather avoid. Of course there are many more reasons, but I know those are some of my biggest reasons for being busy. Our culture values it and so I place value and worth in what I’m doing and accomplishing. And I will admit that I perpetuate the problem – I judge people who aren’t very busy or productive. You just sat around and watched TV today? You didn’t do anything but hang out with friends? You’re not exhausted from over-committing? What’s wrong with you?
Granted, some of that is my personality, or some of it is truly over-committing to things I love doing and care about. Yet I realized how often I’ll leave a party or social event early for reasons as lame as being a little tired, or just wanting alone time, or being uncomfortable with making slightly awkward conversation with people I don’t know as well. I get so wrapped up in good things I need to get done that I ignore needs of people around me. Truth be told, sometimes accomplishing tasks is much easier than sitting down to listen to a friend talk about their problems.
However, community is an idea God has been laying more and more on my heart. How else do you get to share your faith besides getting to know people? How am I supposed to display Christ to my neighbors if I never allow space to be with them? How do I get into deep conversations if I’m always rushing to the next thing?
When we go to do ministry in Hollywood, we go with nothing but time. Time to hang out and get to know people. And when we have a building, it’s going to be a place that fosters community and creates safe space for people to hang out and find out about Jesus in a comfortable environment that they actually want to be in. Hopefully many of us will be able to move there and become part of the community. If I were to live my same busy, rushed life there, I’d do no good. So, am I doing any good where I’m at?
In Hawaii I got to know my friends much better. I had time to just be with them and enjoy them and find fun things to do together. When I got back I listened to the sermon I’d missed at church, and he mentioned how people in the mid-west move slower. He said something like, “In California it’s like we’re rushing to go nowhere. In the mid-west, they know they’re going nowhere, so they take their time”. Funny comment, but true. One of my friends had said something very similar in Hawaii. Yet I still worry that I’ll be judged for not doing enough, for having time to do nothing but sit around with people. Unless of course, I make it clear that I’m ‘doing ministry’…then it’s accepted.
So what am I rushing to? When I stand before God with my completed task list, will he be proud? Or say, “great. but did you love people? did you love me? did you read my word and take the time to respond?”
When I got back from vacation, I found myself driving a little bit slower, having more patience with slow store clerks or people walking in front of me or bad drivers. I stuck around at social gatherings just a little longer than I normally would, realizing I had nothing important to get home to. And when I truly had something I had to rush to, I felt pretty bad that I couldn’t stick around longer with whoever I was with to dig more into their lives. Oddly, it kind of looked like love. I stopped focusing on how fast I could get to the next thing, and suddenly I had plenty of patience and compassion for others, even a desire to converse with them instead of just hurrying on.
I’m liking this so far, and plan to keep trying to incorporate some slowness into my life. There are still plenty of distractions in my downtime (such as the internet …and blogging )… so I don’t quite have it down yet. But ultimately this is what I want my life to be about – someone who takes time for people, to hear and listen to them, be there for them, allow for conversations that lead to Christ. Maybe even do it so much that people wonder, “why is this girl like this? why does she spend so much time caring about me?” and hopefully cause them to wonder about God.
And if God leads me to serve the poor and needy in Hawaii, well, I guess that’s just a sacrifice I’ll have to make