I recently read an excellent book called the Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson. I found it put words to the many feelings and impressions that had been stewing in my mind over the last year or so. I felt so refreshed by his words and hope to share some of these pearls in the next paragraph or so. That is, pearls integrated with some of my own musings on Peterson's wisdom.
Each chapter in this book wrinkled my brain in new and lovely ways but this blog will zero in on Peterson's chapter entitled The Unbusy Pastor. Just to be clear I do not consider myself to be a pastor in the traditional meaning of the word but I do know we are all called to lead and teach something to someone, sometime in our lives, so arguably, in this small we way all share in the work of shepherding to some capacity. It was in this spirit that I applied this book to myself. Ok, enough with the disclaimer and onto the juicy stuff.
Our culture is plagued with busyness. It is one of the ways we measure our importance and I would even dare to say it is a subversive way of saying to others "I matter! I'm important! I'm busy! People need me!" These proclamations are not necessarily wrong but I wonder if we realize the potential danger in constantly filling our schedules with "stuff". One cost to the 'rat race' life style is community. One may argue that they are busy doing things with their communities and to that I would say, good. Maybe you are busy about the right things. But too often our busyness is not about community. It is about making more money, people pleasing, building a false sense of self importance and avoiding the real problems in our lives that have gone undealt with for too long. My words may sound a bit strong here but they are meant to.
Sadly I have seen this type of dangerous ambition creep into the church and nearly crush the wind pipe of many Christians under its yoke, myself included. A Christian group I helped to start built it's foundations on the premise that the cost of leadership involved this kind of full calender type of ministry. My leader at the time actually discouraged me from taking a sabbath because he did not believe the New Testament supported this kind of regular rest, Hebrews 4:12 disagrees however. I get tired even remembering this season in my life and pray that you have been spared this incorrect doctrine. The ending was very sad for the original leaders that helped to found this group. A disproportionate amount of attention was given to task and programs. Inevitably, the better part was forgotten, relationship (Luke 10:41-42). Our relationships were destroyed, marriages strained and broken, friendships ended. But God is faithful and the group continues on in health, minus the original leaders. It was unfortunate and unnecessary that there were so many causalities along the way. I count this as a valuable lesson in my life. A full calender does not necessarily equate to a full ministry. It may equate to more of a red flag. Extreme busyness can sometimes be indicative of immaturity because I have observed that it is the younger folk that are seduced.
As we grow in our faith we begin to trust in the soveriegnty of God more. We begin to see Him faithfully bringing people in and out of various seasons of life with or without our involvement, yet we are blessed and called to be a part of the process. Not because it can't happen without us, but because the Lord wants it to happen with us. Resting in this truth has brought an unparalleled peace to my spirit and refreshed enthusiasm in my attitude towards service. I sense my burdens lightening even in the rememberance of these things.
Do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not advocating that we go to the other end of the spectrum, throw our calenders in the trash, quit our jobs and all earthly commitments and stare at one another in sweet community all day. Clearly we are not called to be a bunch of slackers sipping coffee with one another. Work is good. Commitments are good. The question is this. Are our schedules God directed, or are they directed by our culture of self-importance? Or here's another way of putting it. Does our desire to achieve override our desire to relate? Your calender will tell you.