“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many things,
but only one thing is needed.
Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”
There is a great line in Moby Dick. The sailors are rowing furiously while the whale boat is racing frantically to catch the great whale. But there is one person in the boat who is not doing anything.
He is just sitting there, quiet and still. It’s the harpooner, ready to take aim and throw his deadly dart.
And Melville writes: “To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dark, the harpoonists of this world must start to their feet out of idleness and not out of toil.”
Our culture has a problem with idle harpoonists who appear “nonproductive.” We are more impressed with the dazzling display of the whirring hamster wheel. The busier the better.
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
So, many of us who might be excellent harpoonists get caught up in a relentless pace and are never ready to use our gifts when needed most. We over-commit because we fear boredom.
Running in high gear keeps us from being contemplative. And it keeps us from connecting. It keeps us from thoughts and feelings we want to avoid. Being busy gives us license to slip out early or be absent altogether. But the greatest sin of busyness is how it disrupts our relationship with each other and with God.
Eugene Peterson has said, “Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions.” Few things corrode our relationships more than busyness. And the only way to combat it is to slow down and run the risk of looking like we aren’t doing anything.
In a prior marriage when I knew not how to do this, there was a time when I:
Taught at a university
Was on the staff of the largest church in town
Played tennis 2 days per week with a man on the governor’s staff
Played softball 2 nites per week in another town 30 miles away
Worked with the Sheriff’s department on drug interdiction in three counties
Wrote a dissertation
I didn’t want to go home because of the discomfort I experienced there. It took me a long time to learn this lesson. One of the things The Gorgeous Redhead and I have learned how to do is to stop and “run the risk of looking like we aren’t doing anything.” It’s worth the effort.
Remember the old saw about an elderly woman asking her husband as he sat on the porch with another old man, “What are you doing?” His answer, “Nothing.” Her retort was, “You said that yesterday.” His, “I know, but I wasn’t through yet.”
One of the things we like best about living in Celina is our front porch and some vintage wicker rocking chairs. The ceiling fan in summer, the propane heater in winter, a little bug spray and a glass of something cold gives us a chance to just let the world go by…wave at our neighbors, observe our landscaping, listen to the mockingbirds. It recharges our batteries. Today’s real estate with its high fences, no front porches, automatic garage doors, quickly to the TV, and we don’t make time to stop and smell the roses.
I say again, it’s worth doing. Find a time and place and you’ll be glad you did.
Reflect and Respond
What’s one practical thing you can do this week, in specific terms, to protect your marriage from busyness?
Great time to get some traditions embedded in your relationship.
Here’s some of ours:
We sit on the front porch.
We hold hands in church.
We have lunch after church on Sundays and focus on each other exclusively.
We have a date regularly…and it’s not going to a movie where we don’t talk to each other.
We plan and execute special events every year.
We sit together and plan calendars at least monthly.
We plan 1-5 “getaways” every year, based on what we can afford.
If you don’t plan to do this kind of stuff, you won’t do it. Be intentional and if you get an “aha” over this, let us know.