In 2012, Tim Kreider wrote an article in The New York Times entitled, “The ‘Busy’ Trap.” When a friend sent it to me and I read it for the first time, I remember feeling like Kreider was reading my mail. Of the many insights in his article, there were two in particular that resonated with me: One was that most of our busyness is self-imposed. The great majority of what fills our time are obligations that we’ve taken on voluntarily. To a large degree, we are busy by choice. It’s not inevitable. As much as I hate to admit it, I do this to myself.
The second was his explanation as to why we do this to ourselves.Kreider writes, “They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.” He continues, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
In Minneapolis, MN, you can go see and experience what was once the quietest room in the world.(1) It’s called the Orfield Anechoic Room, and it registers at -9 decibels. To put that in perspective, a normal room that we would consider “quiet” registers at around 30 decibels. The room is so quiet that you can actually hear your own organs functioning!
For many of us who are now in week seven (or is it eight?) of homeschooling and working from home in a packed house, that kind of peace and quiet might sound like a dream. But it’s not. In fact, it pretty quickly turns into a nightmare. The longest that anyone has spent alone in the chamber is 45 minutes. The average person lasts about 30 minutes, and it’s around the 30-minute mark that people begin hallucinating. It’s so quiet that it will literally make you crazy.
Parker Palmer recounts a time in the Upper Midwest, when at the first sign of a blizzard, a farmer would tie a rope from the back door of his house to the barn as a precaution. Everyone knew stories of farmers who had gotten caught in a sudden blizzard and had no way to find their way back to their homes. Many wandered off and eventually froze to death. Some froze just feet away from their own homes without realizing how close they were to safety.
Pete Scazzero picks up this illustration and likens our lives and our world to a blizzard. We’re overwhelmed by the amount of information coming at us, by our attempts to multitask, and by our overcommitments. We end up disoriented, confused, and eventually lost. And of course our experience of this is heightened all the more during this time of quarantine! Scazzero concludes, “We need a rope to lead us home.”(1)
The Daily Office is God’s rope to us in the midst of the blizzard. It’s God’s way to keep us rooted and grounded in Him and His Word.
One of my favorite quotes from Dallas Willard (which is saying something because I love so much of what he wrote!) comes from a conversation he had with a pastor named John Ortberg. Ortberg was pastoring a large, growing church in the late 90s but came to realize he was unhealthy in multiple parts of his life—unhealthy spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. So he called his mentor Willard, described his situation, and asked what he should do. Willard replied, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Ortberg jots that down, and asks, “Okay, what else?” Willard replied, “There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”(1)
When I read that, it resonated deeply with me. I know the hurry and busyness that characterize my own life and heart—and I know what that hurry and busyness does to my life with Jesus. I know what it does to my relationship with my wife and kids. I know what it does to my soul. And I’m guessing you can relate. Even in quarantine when we don’t have anywhere to go, we can still find ways to hurry! To avoid slowing down. To stay busy and distracted. We’ll look more at what’s beneath our hurry and busyness in the weeks to come when we explore the practices of Silence & Solitude and Sabbath, but this week, I want us to see that hurry and busyness undercut our attempts to cultivate a rich life with Jesus, which is just one reason we need a Rule of Life.
“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 (The Message)
The Need & the Opportunity of Our Present Situation
If somebody had told you on March 10th that due to a global pandemic, you’d be spending at least the next month of your life quarantined in your home, leaving only for “essential” tasks, you probably would’ve thought that person was crazy or at least a little paranoid. We’re now over a month into that scenario, and it’s impacting every aspect of our lives—including our life with God. For many of us, this situation has exposed both a real need and a real opportunity in our life with Jesus.