Two years ago, I got to visit the most beautiful place on planet earth – Iceland – and watch a geyser explode right in front of my eyes. It was fascinating. After the initial pillar of water propels itself into the air, the base of the geyser drains of all the water for a few minutes. As I stood engrossed, I felt God whisper powerful truth to me: “That’s you, Claire.” Literally, I was the human equivalent of a drained geyser: I was running on empty. Burnt out. Done.
If you had met me then and asked: “How are you doing, Claire?” I guarantee that a certain four words would have escaped from my mouth: “I’m really busy, thanks!”
I admit it: I was a busy bragger. I had soul fatigue – when our busyness turns into hurriedness.
And let’s face it, I’m not the only follower of Jesus that is. In the culture that surrounds us, where productivity has become an idol, many of us wear busyness like a badge of honour. It can be intoxicating. For me, being busy became proof of my own worthiness.
Are you living a life of ‘breaking busy’?
Alli Worthington in Breaking Busy defines this as a life without peace where decisions are made for the approval of others not God. I know what it feels like to be tethered to an ever increasing do-list; it feels overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. It’s far from the “life to the full” that Jesus talks about in John 10:10.
Then let’s take off your busyness badge of honour and breathe. Breathe God in. Deeply. Have the courage to be still. Choose to feel instead of making yourself numb from busyness.
And ask yourself some questions:
- Why am I always striving to make myself busy?
- What makes me believe that achieving and doing will keep me ‘safe’?
- What makes me sacrifice my own happiness and health to gain approval from others?
Many of us have formed complicated narratives about our own identity and self-worth. In the world we live in, it’s quite easy to discover that our self-worth is built on a foundation of sand especially if we judge it through the world’s definition of success, achievements and other people’s approval. As Fil Anderson asks in Running on Empty: “Are we unable to distinguish between activity and identity, so our activity determines our identity?”
So how can we implement a different rhythm of living?
1) Pausing to recharge
I had to recognise that my passion and enthusiasm for God’s ministry can be the same energy that causes me to ignore my needs and deplete myself. Just like our mobile phones, we have a finite capacity. We need to ensure that we’re recharging and plugging ourselves into our ultimate power source: God. Maybe it’s time to stop doing for God (aka being God’s PA) and start being with God?
Practical step: How are you nurturing your unique connection with God every day? Do you need to strike off something on your to-do list in order to do this?
2) Cultivating self-compassion
Some may perceive self-care as selfish, but we can’t live the life God has created for each of us if we don’t take care of ourselves. For me, self-compassion is ensuring that I don’t just have a Sabbath on Sunday but have a Sabbath hour every day: 60 mins of doing something that lights up my soul. So let’s savour slowness over frenetic living and be intentional about looking after our souls. But it requires discipline to protect this time and also saying ‘no’ to adding another thing on our to-do list.
Practical step: What will you say no to this week so you can spend time looking after your soul?
3) Be present over perfect
Amid all the striving that causes us to seek perfection, it is powerful, counter-cultural and biblical to pause and remember: “I am enough.” Imagine if we all extended God’s grace to ourselves when we suffer or feel inadequate.
In God’s eyes, you are loved (Jeremiah 31:3), forgiven (Titus 2:14), chosen (Isaiah 43:2) and valuable (Deuteronomy 7:6). Sometimes we need to make more time to breathe in these God-truths and breath out the lies that our culture feeds us.
As Shauna Niequist shares, striving to be perfect by being busy can lead us to choose exhaustion over peace, isolation over connection and hustling over sacred presence.
Sometimes, the most courageous thing that God is calling us to do is to stop and be still.
If you want to explore intimacy with God as well as 7 other core principles of Biblical leadership, come and join the International Leadership Institute at History Makers UK at Regent’s College from 2 – 7 July 2017. Find out more here.