Update as of 12/19/2016. The Not Just One More Thing: Spiritual Growth for Busy People is no longer my free give-away course. It has been expanded and turned into a 10-week video course available over at my online classroom, The Apprenticeship Lab. If what you read here sounds interesting, head over and check it out.
Busyness is the enemy of spiritual growth. Busyness is a trap, mindset, a wall of self-defense, an addiction. Busyness is about lack of focus and confused priorities. At least that’s what they say. Surely there’s something true about all of that.
But what about those times when life is just full, full of commitments and obligations and unexpected requirements that you can’t do anything about? What then?
Is it just impossible for a single mom with three kids to be spiritual? Is it an unreasonable expectation for a guy trying to take care of his family, support a hurting friend, and run a business to have a real and on-going relationship with God? Is the only answer to go on a retreat?
Busy People Can’t Be Spiritual?
I didn’t plan to take the month off from writing here on the blog. It just happened. I’ve done a much better job of living a more peaceful and purposeful life this past year, but the last two weeks of May hit and everything happened at once.
Two kids in two different schools had events, concerts, and final sports activities. My agent delivered me a lengthy to-do list for the book proposal we are developing. A rental house we own became vacant. So unexpectedly there’s a whole list of cleaning and fixing and marketing due. All of this happened while I was putting the final touches on a new eCourse. Oh, and there were quarterly taxes in there.
Suddenly I was busy. Head-spinning-busy, not-sure-when-I-might-sit-down-again-busy. Most of it was not optional. It was just the unexpected convergence of a whole lot of commitments and obligations. I cut out where I could (That’s why no blog posts!) Even so, there was too much to do.
Even though it was over the top, my stress level was much lower than I expected it to be. I was tired at the end of the day, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. I felt a sense of God’s work in my heart—even though my time margins had all but evaporated.
So, what made the difference?
I grew up in a faith community that talked a lot about taking time to be with God. You started the day with a devotional (Back then we called it “The Morning Watch.”) You kept a weekly Sabbath. You were encouraged to go on retreats.
Taking time out is a great antidote to busyness, but, frankly, there are just times when you can’t take time out. A kid gets sick. Your parent gets dementia and you become the care-taker. One spouse loose a job, and the other has to work twice as hard. Things happen that are out of your control.
Even though you may not have the luxury of taking time out, you are never out of range of God. In fact, it’s arguable that it is these busy seasons that are the greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. Why? Anyone can feel spiritual when they are on vacation. Take a three-day retreat to the mountains with no cell phone, and you’ll have plenty of time to read, to journal, to reflect. That’s easy to do. It’s equally easy to not bring any of it back with you into your every-day life.
The real challenge is to find ways to connect with God in the middle of the life you actually have. In some seasons that means connecting with God in the middle of busyness.
Learning to Live the With-God Life
All of this came together for me this past year while I was teaching a class on John 15. We were discussing the metaphor Jesus used of the vine. As we dug into the test something became clear for me. The connection between the branch and the vine is ongoing. It’s not something that the branch “plugs into” once a day or once a week. It’s an always-on connection.
I had grown up living a “Go to God” kind of life. There were key moments, certain events, certain activities even places that connected you to God. Your responsibility was to show up. Go to church. Go to Bible Study. Go to the youth retreat. Go to church camp. These were the moments of connection, and we treated them that way, like we were filling up our spiritual tank until the next opportunity.
But in John 15 Jesus was suggesting a different way of doing life—this “always on” connection of the branch and the vine. Instead of living a “Go to God” kind of life,
Jesus was inviting us to live a “With God” kind of life, a life where everything we did was done in God’s presence, in connection with God, with an awareness of God’s heart and purpose.
If you’re living a “Go to God” kind of life, busyness is always the enemy of spiritual growth. Each obligation and commitment in your day is time that you can’t spend connecting with God. The only solution is to disconnect from those many activities so you can reconnect with God. There are times when this kind of disconnecting is helpful.
But if you’re living a “With God” kind of life, busyness doesn’t have to stand between you and God. God is with you during every commitment and obligation. Instead of needing to cram religious activities into your day on top of all your other commitments, you simply go about your day seeking God’s presence and guidance in and around the things you have to do.
These last three weeks this has been my experience. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by my load, and finding myself more and more disconnected from God, it’s been the opposite. I’ve found myself more mindful of God’s presence as I drove from one commitment to the next. As anxiety mounted in my heart, I’d repeat, “God is responsible for outcomes; I am responsible to trust and be faithful.” Each day I got done whatever I got done, and instead of feeling rushed and behind (my normal response to seasons of busyness) I’ve been settled.
What I’ve seen in the past month has been so encouraging to me. My growing relationship with God isn’t dependent on the luxury of spare time. Even in the most busy season I’ve had in a long time, I’ve stayed connected.
Do You Want more Spiritual Focus in the Middle of Your Busyness?
Living a “With God” kind of life is a different perspective, but for me it is translating into more peace, more presence with my family and the people that I love, and much lower stress as I face the busyness this season has brought me.
I’d like to share some practical ways you can make this shift for yourself.
I’m offering you a 10-week course on the subject. It’s called “Not Just One More Thing: Spiritual Growth for Busy People.”
It’s designed to fit into your busy life.
- It’s delivered by email. You don’t have to go looking for it.
- It shows up on Sunday afternoons before your week starts.
- It includes 1 big idea for you to chew on for the week, delivered in approximately 500 words.
- The big idea is followed up by 5 simple activities that will help you engage the big idea. 1 activity per day, 5 days in the week.
- The whole lesson including the daily activities is designed to take you 15 minutes or less each day.
- Each week gives you something practical to implement in your life that will help you move toward this “With God” mindset.
- If you stick with the lessons and do the activities, in 10 weeks you will see a significant difference in the way you see God throughout your day.
So, how can you get this course? Simple.
You can’t buy it. I want to give it to you. That’s right. It’s my free gift to you in exchange for you subscribing to my email list.
I promise I’ll never spam you. You’ll get the course, plus you’ll get a notification when I post new content here on the blog. Always good stuff that will help you build a more vibrant and intentional spiritual life.
Take the Next Step:
Reflect on the distinction between a “Go to God” life and a “With God” life. Which do you think you are living now?
2. Take Action:
3. Comment below:
How do you stay spiriutally focused when you hit a busy season?