Busyness Does Not Equal Spirituality
Universities are busy places. I discovered that my first day as a freshman in college.
For a homeschooler who grew up as a missionary kid on a slow-paced island in the Caribbean, the busyness caught me off guard. At first, I hated it. But then I started to look around me at the people who filled their lives with busyness.
At a Christian university, much of the busyness revolves around good, helpful, “Christian” things, so many of the leaders around campus and in the dorms seemed to be the busiest of all. I began to notice and admire students who carried full credit loads, served as group leaders in the dorms, worked one or two jobs on campus, led an outreach on the weekends, and led in their societies as presidents or chaplains.
As a freshman watching these hardworking upperclassmen who were, in my mind, spiritual giants, I began to formulate this idea:
Busyness equals spirituality.
This belief had huge implications for me. I wanted to be involved in as many areas as I possibly could. Part of this desire stemmed from my pride telling me that fellow students would respect me, as I had respected others, if I were heavily involved at school. Another part of this desire stemmed from my own God-given desire to serve others.
By my junior year, I was ready to have the leadership positions that I so coveted. But then God began closing doors for leadership. I was devastated. I felt as if any opportunities I might have had to make an impact at my school and in the lives of my fellow students were lost. I felt as if any opportunities to grow and prepare for future ministry were lost. I felt as if I had lost opportunities to grow closer to God through serving him in all these “good” ways.
And that’s when God stepped in, pushed the pause button on my life, and revealed a key area of idolatry in my heart.
God revealed the idol of reputation to me. This idol and I have a long history together. We go all the way back to kindergarten when I sobbed after school because a girl had told me that the baby doll I had brought for a Christmas gift exchange was stupid. Of course she had said it in front of all my classmates, and of course that shattered my little kindergarten world.
The opportunities to lead that I felt I had lost were much like that doll. They were supposed to bring me prestige, but instead they were thrown back in my face. When I had arrived at the Christmas gift exchange, I had expected to be praised and admired for the gift I had brought, but it turned out to be worthless.
Ultimately, I didn’t really need to be a leader on campus so much as I needed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Busyness meant nothing apart from a deep, restful, growing relationship with Christ.
Often, disciples of Christ live full lives. They have much going on and much to do. But the source of their spirituality is not their busy service to God. The source of their spirituality is the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, sanctifying them and making them more like Jesus Christ.
I realized my junior year that busyness in good things is not the pathway to being spiritual. Rather, spirituality comes from walking with God.
And sometimes, walking with God means I have to say no to the opportunities. Sometimes, the most spiritual thing I can do is to turn down an opportunity for service so I can spend some much-needed time with God.
That’s not to say, however, that we should not pursue or accept the opportunities that God brings our way. God has provided us with many wonderful ways to serve him, and the campus of a Christian university abounds with these opportunities. In fact, God commands us to do good works and has prepared specific good works for us to do (Hebrews 13:16; James 2:14-21; Ephesians 2:10).
But busyness is the wrong focus. Instead of pursuing busyness, take time to evaluate your relationship with God. If you don’t have time to spend with God every day, then you don’t have time to lead that outreach or to be the chaplain of your society. If you don’t have time to be quiet and still before God, then perhaps something in your busy life needs to go. Even if that thing is “good”.
No good thing is better than knowing God.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.