The Cult of Busy

How long will you go on before hearing the echoes of grace?

What is it with always describing ourselves as busy? Why is it such common parlance to describe our existences in this way? Tim Kreider calls this “the Busy trap.

How was your day today? — Busy.
Did you have a nice weekend? — Yeah, it was busy.
Hey! How are you doing? — Man, I’m so busy.
What are you up to these days? — Things are crazy busy!

Surely, when we use the word “busy” in this way, we are not saying anything of substance? Do any of us not feel as though we live busy lives? I have never heard a person complain from having too much time on his hands. It seems to run through all of our fingers.

“Total human autonomy is a beautiful lie. It is one of the myths of our age.”

Ironically, to lament or complain in this way is almost a boast in disguise. We want our friends to know that we are productive human beings. We are out there, in the world, executing decisions. Getting stuff done. And we are busy. Look at us being being.

Much of our excessive use and abuse of the word ‘busy’ comes from the collective game that we play as a society to out-busy one another. Our Western culture runs as a meritocracy. We strive for success on a variety of fronts: in monetary terms; with respect to the status of our work; the possessions we own — cars, charisma, and clothing and so on. People are ranked and ordered based upon their achievements.

The Problem of Meritocracy

Hear me out though…To acheive and succeed in life is not, of itself, something negative. However, the problems arise when we begin to define ourselves by our achievements. The measure to which we succeed then becomes the measure to which we are confident in our identity.

This may feel well and good when all is well and all is good. But it will not always be this way. There are many ‘uncontrollables’ in life, where the opportunity for success is taken out of our hands. Total human autonomy is a beautiful lie. It is one of the myths of our age. There will be many times in life when unavoidable failure slaps us in the face. Life does not always turn out the way that we expect or imagine.

Can we truly base our happiness on the immediate, fluctuating happenings of life? Will we not be tossed to-and-fro by the successes and failures that we all experience? Is there really any stability here?

The Sea under the Setting Sun

Imagine a man snorkling in the sea at sunset. As the daylight fades, the man’s view of the vivid sea life becomes blurred and darkened. Meanwhile, above him is a beautiful sunset offering the spectacle of a lifetime. Blues and reds. Oranges and purples. Colours like a painter’s palette appear in the sky. Every time the man resurfaces to take in another breath he has an opportunity to enjoy the wondrous sky. However, in his enthusiasm to catch fleeting glimpses of small fish below, he quickly submerges himself again. He turns his head downwards. He buries his face in the sea, not knowing how close the sand is to his face.

Sometimes we catch glimpses of the Sunset. We hear faint echoes of grace. We dare to imagine a world where Peace and Acceptance are our friends. But instead we only resurface for a short moment, to take breath, before plunging ourselves back into the murky waters of the meritocracy. Here, there is no question of a better alternative. All we can see is that which is immediately before our eyes — a pernicious world where strong identity is forged and frazzled as we succeed and fail.

We too easily presume that the echoes of grace, by nature of being different to hear, belong to some far-flung land. We think them to be foreign. In reality, the water is still in our ears. It is our familiarity with the meritocracy that stops us from fully bearing sight of that which is before us. Grace is closer to us than we realise.

Striving to Enter Rest

And this is the message of the Christian Church — grace is close to us. How can this be so? By nature of the God-man, Jesus, coming into the world. In Jesus, God does not remain aloof or distant. He comes close to his creation, becoming like us that we might become like Him.

God comes to tell us, through his incarnate self, of another world. A world more real and more beautiful than the one we normally see. The currency of this world is Love. God, in Jesus, invites us to Himself, to a life of joy and satisfaction. And He does so with no predication on our part. We need not prove ourselves worthy. The Gospel is not a meritocracy.

The only effort or work that God deems necessary on our part is this: “Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11). And “that rest” which is spoken of refers to the rest of acceptance and peace that we find in God. It is the acceptance that God offers to us when we acknowledge that it is not about how much we achieve or succeed, but how greatly Christ has succeeded.

Friends, let us only strive to that end.

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