I am currently reading a book by Eugene Peterson (no surprise there, huh?!) called ‘Subversive Spirituality’. I read it a little bit at a time (unlike my normal method of reading, which is to devour a book hungrily in one sitting, aiming for the world speed reading record at the same time!), partly in the same way that you might linger over a meal you are really enjoying, not wanting the experience to end, partly because I have to ‘chew on’ the things he writes about in order to fully digest them.

Reading Eugene Peterson for me is like putting on a pair of new shoes and finding they are so comfortable that it feels like you have been wearing them forever. (That, incidentally, is not something that happens very often to me. Buying new shoes is normally one of the most stressful things I do, an event forced on me when the previous pair of comfortable old slipppers literally fall to pieces and I notice holes in the soles and get damp feet! I am no Imelda Marcos, but rather a loyal lover of the most comfortable footwear I can find and am loathe to change it once I’ve found it!) I find that he articulates things I have been musing about for a long time in such a way that I smile with a sense of real familiarity. ‘So that’s how it is! Yes, that’s what I’ve been trying to say!’ The words themselves may be new to me, but the ease and comfort with which the words penetrate my soul indicate that I have been walking along this path for some time.

Today’s moment of recognition came as I read the following:
“Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions. It is taking charge.” (Eugene Peterson, ‘Subversive Spirituality’ P 237).

I suspect I will be digesting this thought for some time. I have spent the week chipping away at a jobs’ list that is alarming in length and full of ‘urgent’ and ‘important’ things that ‘must’ be done. I have long wrestled with this differentiation between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’, between what I must necessarily do as part of the everyday routines and the things that are necessary to my spiritual growth and how to recognise the difference between the two and how to balance the two.

A long time ago my son asked me why I worked so hard. He was too young to have heard of the Protestant work ethic and I think he was somewhat surprised by my answer. I said that I worked so hard because I was fundamentally lazy.

This is the first time I have ever seen anyone else equate busyness with laziness. The two are normally viewed as opposites. I don’t see them as opposites. To have the two things linked together by someone else is like putting my feet into those new shoes and finding they fit perfectly. I do recognise in myself a desire to be in control, and work (even work imposed on us by others, where we have to do things that perhaps we don’t want to do or deem important ourselves) can easily fuel this desire. The reason that ‘filling our time with our own actions’ can seem such a virtuous thing to do is that it puts us in the driving seat. We are in charge.

That is why I believe busyness can be an enemy of spirituality. I believe it fuels the ego and leaves us more interested in what we can do than in what God is doing. It fuels our self-importance and leads us to think we can get by without God.

So I have deliberately and intentionally sat here with a cup of coffee typing this rather than rushing to start the jobs’ list (which ironically continues to grow, even when I cross off all the things I have managed to do this week!) I believe I need to attend to my spiritual life and slow down long enough to listen to God and find out what He is saying and doing. That was the secret of Jesus’s success: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) If Jesus Himself had to rely on His Father and could do nothing by Himself, I certainly cannot hope to grow spiritually while I am busy doing my own thing, being in charge. And funnily enough, Jesus also said that if we put Him first, all the things that we worry about will fall into place (Matthew 6:33). So I think it’s worth taking time out of our busyness to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him.