Crazy Busy: The Book

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Problem. It’s a catchy title. The trailer is the funniest book trailer I’ve ever watched. (Admittedly, I could count the number of book trailers I’ve ever watched on one hand.) Better still, it’s a book by Kevin DeYoung (plus one) with practical wisdom about a relevant issue (plus two).

Busyness can be a big problem for our spiritual lives, DeYoung explains. It can “ruin our joy” (26), “rob our hearts” (28), and “cover up the rot in our souls” (30). One of the quotes that stuck with me most was from the section about robbing our hearts: “How many moments of pain are wasted because we never sat still enough to learn from them?” (30) DeYoung wants us to realise that busyness can cause real problems for our Christian lives.

It makes sense, really. I know that feeling busy can make me feel stressed–or rather, that I can use busyness as an excuse for feeling stressed. Being stressed doesn’t naturally coincide with being peaceful or joyful or thankful and considering that those are qualities Christians are meant to possess, that certainly poses a problem.

So why do we have this problem of busyness? That’s what the bulk of the book is about. (As DeYoung explains at the end, it’s certainly possible to be busy for legitimate reasons. But he deals with the wrong reasons first.) He has seven reasons. I’ll just mention some of them here.

We’re busy because we’re proud (chapter 3). DeYoung creatively comes up with a list of many “p” words that all have pride at their root, such as wanting “pats on the back” or “pity”. We can’t always figure out our motives for what we do, he admits, but he suggests this question as a good beginning: “Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?” (39)

We’re busy because we don’t set priorities (chapter 5). DeYoung explains that doing some things well means saying “no” to other things. Jesus is a good example of this. “He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do” (55).

Chapter 7 “suggest[s] three ways in which the digital revolution is an accomplice to our experience of being crazy busy” (80). Perhaps, DeYoung suggests, you’re repeatedly sucked in to your digital devices, perhaps pointlessly surfing the net is making you listless, or perhaps the constant hum of things always calling for your attention, the apparent impossibility of every being truly alone, is distracting you. If these are problems for you (and I know they are for me) then this chapter has some suggestions for you.

The last of the seven reasons flips the coin: maybe, DeYoung suggests, we’re busy because we’re meant to be. Not because we’ve sinned or been unwise in the ways he’s suggested in the previous chapters, but because we’re doing what God has called us to do even when it’s hard and overwhelming.

That’s ok.  Busyness isn’t a problem in and of itself, he says. “The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things” (102). Busyness is also an attitude issue. “It’s possible to live your days in a flurry of hard work, serving, and bearing burdens, and to do so with the right character and a right dependence on God so that it doesn’t feel crazy busy. By the same token, it’s possible to feel amazingly stressed and frenzied while actually accomplishing very little” (102).

While there is much practical wisdom throughout the book, in his final chapter DeYoung narrows in on what he sees as the most important thing of all: that whatever else we do or don’t do with our time, we must make time with Jesus a priority.

“It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong—and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable—is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need” (118).

Crazy Busy is a short, easy read. A lot of what’s in there is common sense (whether spiritual or practical), but if you’re anything like me, just because something is common sense doesn’t mean that you’re actually putting it into practice. It’s not a highbrow book, but it’s extremely practical, it’s grace-infused, and unless you have this busyness thing down to a fine art, it should give you something to think about.

Internet and Doves

Well, hello! It’s  been a while.

Part the first.

Last week I lacked inspiration. Last week I had no internet access at home (although, frankly, that’s not a valid excuse as it didn’t stop me from posting the week before). Last week I didn’t make myself write. And if I don’t make myself do it, inspiration or no inspiration, well–a post will not magically appear all by itself. So this week I have made myself write anyway. And the good thing about writing anyway is that flexing those fingers on the keyboard has a happy way of cranking the gears of one’s brain. Forget about the proverbial hamster. It’s the fingers that power the mind.

When we didn’t have internet at home and I was dependent on going to friends’ houses for accessing that mysterious entity known as the world wide web, I used my internet time efficiently. Very. (For the most part.) I had to. My time was limited. A lot of fluff got removed–I did very little blog-hopping and none or next to none of the idle searches I’d make at home when something crosses my mind and I decide to quickly find the answer to it, however irrelevant it may be to my life. Since the return of the internet (if I capitalised that, it would sound like a film: The Return of the Internet–the long-forgotten fourth in the LOTR trilogy, perhaps?) I have succumbed to the same pattern again. Another email check. “Just one more” blog to visit. Another piece of information to search for.

I’m happy to have the internet back. It’s not fun having an internet-dependent job and no internet, never mind college and friends and all the rest of it. The internet is an oh-so-useful tool which I wouldn’t be without. But I don’t want to be controlled by it. I don’t want to waste lots of time with distractions and trivial pursuits. I want to use it more wisely than I do. Except when I’m in front of a computer, that is.

Part the second.

Last week, I attended a choral concert with a few friends. Meltingly beautiful singing. One of the pieces was Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer: I don’t believe I’ve heard it before and I can see I was missing out. Listening to it at home again made me read Psalm 55, which it is taken from. And I read the words and they resonated. I think some things in the Bible sit there quietly, waiting–like a pearl in its shell–to be discovered. Waiting to jump out at you because suddenly your life experience marries up with what’s written. This psalm marries up more than I intend to say here, but I will just say this:

I can understand what the psalmist wanted–somewhere quiet and peaceful away from problems. A snug corner in the wilderness. (If wildernesses can be snug?)

But that’s not the solution the psalm offers.

God is the solution.

God will hear and God will save. God will deliver and God will sustain.

Trust in God is the solution, not dove’s wings.

The escape to the wilderness can wait.

Part the third: when I love it that I’ve thought of a connection I didn’t set out to make.

I’m so self-controlled with my internet usage.

Except when I’m in front of a computer.

I’m so good at trusting God.

Except when I’m faced with a problem.

There’s no reasonable way I can avoid the internet (even when it seems our service provider kindly does their best to facilitate such avoidance….).

There’s no way, reasonable or unreasonable, that I can avoid problems, hard times, troubles–call them what you will. Changing their name doesn’t change their essence.

There are no magic solutions to self-control or trust.

Often the solutions are the ones we know already but don’t want to put into practice.

This would be a negative conclusion if I ended it here, if I ended it with Us. Us and our problems. Us and our failures.

But we’re not really the end, are we?

God is.

And that’s a much better ending!