Life can be busy. This just seems to be a reality of life. And especially within the Christian world, busyness sometimes seems to translate into godliness. I have known this to be true in my own life. I have the privilege to teach each week at the seminary and interact with students and colleagues regarding very important eternal matters. I also served as the lead pastor of a church on a “part-time” basis. I’m married with two little boys who were always wanting daddy’s time. And I was finishing my dissertation for my doctorate. Just a little busy!

            It seems that everyone that I know is carrying a busy if not crazy load and lifestyle that seems exhausting just to talk about. This has become the norm rather than the exception especially for people who are in ministry. But I want to suggest to you today that there is a subtle deception in thinking that more is better and that busyness is equal to godliness. And I share this to all of you from the vantage point of a person who has pared down his life to just a few things. So consider this blog “The Confessions of a (formerly) Busy Person.”

            Carrying a full load of responsibilities and activities has always been a part of my lifestyle. This kind of expectation was placed upon me from an early age from both my parents as well as from my Asian culture. I certainly did not want to be considered lazy or a sluggard. This would have been a disgrace for me and my family. So activity upon activity, position upon position, responsibility upon responsibility, was added to my already full plate. And this seemed pleasing to my parents and somewhat gratifying to my own workaholic tendencies.

            So given many opportunities later on in life, I’m sure that many people saw this as a prestigious position to be in and even may have been considered enviable. Being the lead pastor of a church while at the same time being involved in academia by teaching at a leading evangelical seminary, for many, this would be a dream jobs. And for a while, it did seem that way until reality set in.

            The first thing to go was my physical health. I was constantly tired and always stressed. This was the result of not sleeping enough, eating whatever was convenient but not healthy, and always being on the go. Our bodies were not meant to function in this manner. This eventually led to a 911 call and a trip in the ambulance to ER after I experienced symptoms of what I thought may have been a heart attack. Fortunately, it was not a heart attack but rather a stress attack. Either way, this was an early warning that things were not functioning the way that they were intended to be. When your body breaks down, you must pay attention to this before it gets too serious and even irreparable.

            The next thing to go was my spiritual life and intimacy with God. This does not mean that no time was spent with God at all. But rather, it means that the quality, unrushed and enjoyable time with God was absent. Spending time reading the Bible was a daily practice. Meditating on it in a peaceful and unrushed circumstance was not. There were always deadlines dues, people to meet, and tasks that needed attention that basically crowded God out of the picture of intimacy. As a result, my Christian life did not feel like a relationship. It was more of an obligation in order to keep up with what was expected of me due to my positions of being a pastor and a professor. I knew that this needed to change but was unsure on how to do this.

            By far, one of the most neglected parts of my life due to busyness was my family. Meetings, class, and teaching Bible study are all wonderful things. I’m sure that this blessed many people, many people except my family. The reason was that I was never home. Missing out on dinner and putting my young boys to sleep at night really put a distance between my family and me.  This definitely was not a good practice.

            The last four months have been a huge change in my lifestyle. It is this change that allows me now to write “The Confessions of a (Formerly) Busy Person.” Due to the above reasons, our family decided to make a pretty big decision that was literally life changing. After seven years of serving as the lead pastor of a local church, we decided to step away from the pastorate. It was a difficult decision mainly because of the deepened relationships that had been built over that time.  A big part of this also included the fact that both my boys were born during the ministry, so all they knew in their lives was about our church and the people in it. This decision also had to be considered carefully as a significant pay cut would be the result of this change.

            Another huge milestone came in the completion of my doctoral program. I had been in this program for the last five years. Although it was enjoyable in many ways, its completion was certainly anticipated. The many hours of study, reading, researching, and writing finally came to an end. Not only myself but my family rejoiced greatly in the Lord’s grace and sustenance during this time of study.

            So what lessons might this formerly busy person pass on to a currently busy person? There are three lessons:

  1. Don’t try to cram a lifetime’s worth of work into a short period of time. Life is meant to be lived through a lifetime not a short period of time. Sometimes in our zealous ambition, we try to do everything right now. The lesson that I learned as I tried to do this is that I could do everything in a mediocre way but nothing with excellence. This really bothered my conscience because I knew that if I could just focus on one thing at a time, the quality of my work would be much better. I truly suffered from guilt by giving my second best or leftovers.
  2. Value relationships more than work. We do say that relationships are a priority but often this does not show itself in one’s actions. The neglect of my family, church members, colleagues, and old friends was blaringly evident during this time. There simply was no time to fit them in. They may have suffered some during this time but I probably suffered the most. We sometimes allow relationships to just pass us by. When we do this rather than take an active posture, relational drift is inevitable. I experienced this with my family, the closest people to me. Now with much more available time, I have a lot of catching up to do relationally.
  3. Prioritize your time of focus on the Lord in a deep relational manner. This priority has really become evident in my life simply because I have more time to focus on my relationship with the Lord. Before, everything was rushed or I was thinking about the next task that I needed to do. Now that I’ve freed up my time, I can proceed slowly, lovingly, and gradually in my time with the Lord without feeling stress or pressure. It has been a wonderful time of renewal and growth for me personally.

So how about you who may currently be very busy? Are you finding time to do the important things rather than the urgent things? Please make sure to prioritize the important things for your own personal well-being as well as that of your family and ministry. With this will also come the greater possibility of longevity and thus greater effectiveness for yourself in the future. Hope that you can make some personal confessions of your formerly busy time soon!