Getting Past Being Busy
One of the greatest obstacles to effective discipleship is the nearly constant obsession to be busy and to do the “church” thing. I think we can thank the Protestant Work Ethic for that. Wikipedia defines the Ethic as follows: “a Calvinist value emphasizing the necessity of constant labor in a person's calling as a sign of personal salvation”. The problem is that the ethic has morphed into a cultural of busy-ness in which we get so caught up in doing church that we forget to be the church. We forget that we were redeemed not for a life of being worker ants scurrying about. We were redeemed to be in a meaningful, life-giving relationship with God and with one another within the Body of Christ. This is a relationship that then spills out of us into all our relationships and work in the world.
I’ve been struggling with this disconnect between doing church and being the church for many years. I’m one of those people who like to be busy. I like to be doing things. I like to be productive. Unfortunately I’ve also thought that it was important for me to be able to demonstrate to other people that I am productive…as if this was the only way to prove my worth and earn people’s respect (there is a long story behind this). As my spirituality has developed over these last few years I’ve learned the difference between doing church and being the church. I’ve learned the difference between being a worker in the Kingdom and being a disciple of Christ. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, an obsession with doing things (a-la the Protestant Work Ethic) can, and often does, get in the way of our relationship with Christ and our response to Him in a life of discipleship.
The last few months for me have been one of those very frenetic times; it’s been more about getting things done and trying to meet deadlines than nurturing my relationship with God and deepening my response to God’s grace. As I have prepared for worship this week (Jacob wrestling with God in
I can’t overcome this struggle or sanctify these sins by trying to prove my salvation in the work that I do, even if it is “church” stuff. It is only God’s grace that brings this healing and it is only in my willingness through living into a perfecting spirituality that I am immersed in this healing and wholeness. It is only when I, as a primary act, open myself to the relationship and experience of God that I will know this experience. In this, I am moved by the words of Carlo Carretto who writes in his Letters to Docidia: 1954-1983, ”At a certain point it occurred to me that what the Church lacked was not work, activity, the building of projects or a commitment to bring in souls. What was missing, or at least scarce, was the element of prayer, meditation, self-giving, intimacy with God, fidelity to the Holy Spirit and the conviction that [Christ] was the real builder of the Church.” As I write this, I’m reflecting on Jesus’ comment to the disciples, “you will always have the poor with you” and I think it finally makes sense.
Without a deepening relationship with Christ helping the poor is merely charity. It is only through our perfecting, healing, empowering relationship with Christ that our work with the poor becomes discipleship. It is only then that it becomes peacemaking.