It was very busy. Just like your year probably was. And the more I talk to people, the more I find that I'm only one in a large crowd of Christians wondering how to have a proper balance between work and rest.
A couple of months ago I wrote my own article on the subject, but that only scratched the surface of the matter. I wanted a book on it desperately. Not a book that taught me how to be more efficient, or to cram more into my schedule--but a book that addressed the theology and mindsets behind being busy, and what proper levels of busyness are.
Rather ironic that what I was looking for should release towards the end of the year, when my busyness was almost over. :)
Kevin DeYoung released Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem just before his Sola 13 conference, and for once in my life, I bought a brand-new copy shortly after its release. It was the last book I read in 2013.
So far, it's had an impact.
Little changes. Easy to make in post-holiday rest, and maybe they'll last, and maybe they'll not. But if you're feeling crazy busy, like a car without brakes just waiting to crash, maybe this book will be helpful to you. It was helpful to me, and our whole family is reading it aloud together, with only two chapters left to go. Kevin brings refreshing humor and Biblical theology to an issue that very few pastors have addressed--probably because very few have the time.
I can't think of a better author to present on this issue. With very aspect DeYoung brought up, he pinpointed widely relevant problems, and offered not condemnation, but encouragement, and release, and a return to sanity in a discussion of what a fruitful use of our time looks like.
My life is crazy busy. I don't say that as a boast or a brag. I'm not trying to win any contest. I'm just stating the facts. Or at least describing the way my life feels almost every single day. How did I get this way? How did you get this way? How did we all get this way?...I do not write this book as one who has reached the summit and now bends over to throw the rope down to everyone else. More like the guy with a toehold three feet off the ground, looking for my next grip. I'm writing this book not because I know more than others but because I want to know more than I do. I want to know why life feels the way it does, why our world is the way it is, why I am the way I am. And I want to change.
I hope you'll find a few ways to tackle your schedule, several suggestions for reclaiming your sanity, and a lot of encouragement to remember your soul.
All of which is to say, I hope you find in reading this book exactly what I'm looking for in writing it.
~Crazy Busy, Chapter 1
One thing I like about Kevin's books (and it may be ego-stroking instead of earth-shatteringly biblical) but he confirms a lot of theories I've developed over the years about holiness, busyness, and relationships that I held to for a long time. He's a kindred spirit in the way he thinks, and our family enjoys his sense of humor and his style of approach.
As soon as we started reading it aloud, the first chapter sparked a long discussion. Several chapters in particular caused us to wax eloquent, not only the first one, but also the chapters on children and on technology, which are common issues for many families. So far it's been a blessing to share as a family, because then we can all hear it and apply it together, instead of one or two people trying desperately to make their life less crazy when the rest of the family has no idea why. I'm glad we read Why Christ Came so that in turn led into the reading of this book.
It's really hard to chose a favorite topic out of several that were covered in Crazy Busy. But, though every chapter was relevant and extremely helpful, I suppose I could narrow it down to two that I particularly needed:
-You are Trying to Do What God Does Not Intend You to Do
If you've ever felt guilt for not praying daily over everybody's needs, taking on every deserving cause, and attending every Christian activity you possibly could, then this is the perfect chapter. Kevin points out that God doesn't call us to give our whole hearts and schedules to every needy cause. God calls us to specific things, not to everything. And not every request for ministry needs to be accepted.
-You'd Better Rest Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
I already knew this concept before Kevin brought it up. Quite well. Intellectual assent doesn't always mean it's easy to carry something out, though, and it's easy to say to someone "You work too hard," but it's less common to hear "you should take a break". Giving permission to rest is almost as essential, if not more so, than pointing out a problem, and that's what Kevin does. He explains rest to be not only vital for our minds and bodies, but a spiritual duty, in many cases more spiritually beneficial than staying up all night to pray. In other words: rest is a good thing. And it's important that we take it. The Lord will take care of the needs of the world even when we're not there to attend to them personally.
Other topics Kevin addressed were technology (don't get scared; he has a profile on almost every social media outlet) busyness from pride, how to be less busy with your children, and surprisingly, why Christians should be busy after all.
It was an excellent read. Short just like he promised, but every sentence counted, and it didn't need to be long. Kevin combines grace and teaching, humor and help, in a happy balance. It's not a list of how to more efficiently manage our schedules, but a call to go about busyness with the right heart attitude. And if we have the right heart attitude, then some of the busyness will dissipate, and we'll be left with only the good and the best.
Since reading this book, I still have many of the same events that I had before reading it, though the events aren't quite as crazy due to a January lull. But I'm reading more books again, for one thing, and though the changes aren't startling, I know they're there. And it's hard. It's hard not to run at 110%, because I've taught myself that that's the only legitimate productivity. It takes time to shift and heal when you've been running too hard, but it's worth it and very important.
Perhaps that will be another theme for 2014. I don't know what the year holds: it may be even crazier and busier than last year was. But the Lord has that all in His hands, and I only pray that the busyness will be fruitful service, and building His house (Psalm 127:1).
Do you feel too busy, like your life is out of control? Then I highly recommend Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung. It's not long, it's powerful, and it holds many of the key concepts we need to get a grip on our schedules in a God-honoring and biblical way.