If there’s an international anthem, here’s its refrain: I’m so busy, I’m so tired, there’s more for me to do than there is of me to do it.
I hear it everywhere. I’ve travelled on five continents, and heard it on every one. I’m scheduled to travel soon to a sixth: I’m sure I’ll hear it there. The anthem is sung across cultures, languages, generations, genders. It’s sung in cities, in towns, in villages. It’s sung in summer and winter and springtime and harvest.
It’s sung as confession, as complaint, as lament, as excuse, sometimes as boast.
I’ve never heard it sung as praise.
Almost all our time-saving devices have become time-drains. Almost all our freedom of movement has been constricted by a list of endless demands. Former generations were busy with actual work – building barns, reaping fields, darning socks, fixing tractors. Our generation is busy with being busy. We’re all going and doing with near reckless haste, but it’s hard to say exactly where we’re going, what we’re doing.
Life is a tilt-a-whirl.
And in a tilt-a-whirl, discipleship is near impossible. Discipleship takes time. It calls for action, to be sure, but it’s action arising from a deep attentiveness born of stillness – Martha-like industry springing from Mary-like intimacy. For a reason Psalm 23 – maybe the best creed of the disciple – begins with God making us lie down. How else can he restore our souls, and how else can he prepare us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death while knowing he is with us, guiding us, protecting us, providing for us?
On the day of my baptism – now almost 35 years ago – I was given a “Life Verse” by my church: Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all these things will be given to you as well.” The “these things” Jesus refers to are things I typically am anxious about, crave more of, chase after. These things, if I seek them and not God, make life a tilt-a-whirl.
That little church had no idea – or maybe they did – how meddlesome that verse would prove in my life. It has messed with me in a million ways. Jesus lists food and clothing as the two things I might chase after, but I actually have a much longer list than that. Whenever I start chasing them, that verse comes crashing into my life again.
It calls me back to the one thing needed.
Here’s what it’s taught me: when I place God at the periphery of my life, he only makes my life more complicated. God-at-the-periphery just adds to the tilt-a-whirl effect. Only when God is at the center of my life does life make sense. Only then does it take on a shape that makes his yoke easy and his burden light. Only then do I have wisdom, strength, and grace to move through my days, busy as most are, with calm and clarity, and good cheer. Only then do I experience the deep contentment that alone is the antidote to coveting.
Life is meant to be lived from a center, and only God is a sufficient center. Eccentric literally means off-center. It’s how tilt-a-whirls work, spinning in a wonky orbit. Christians are called to be peculiar. But we’re not called to be eccentric.
Any adjustments needed in your life?