By Marianne Sloan
We live in a culture that glorifies being busy.
In the past, I have worn the word like a badge. My response to people when they ask, “How are you?” was often “Oh, I’m good! Just really busy.” And more often than not, I either got an empty look from the other person, like they realized why I hadn’t called or visited lately… or they were delighted to find another person as busy as themselves. We could glorify busy together.
I constantly have to resist the urge to schedule myself into a consistent state of busy.
Fighting busy is a tremendous struggle, but I have found it worth the effort, because busy makes my home and heart full of clutter, and distracts me from the most important things. I want to be full of intention and purpose in both the small and large moments of my life, and in order to do this, I must make room for what’s important.
Busy makes clutter.
I am running to and from activities, errands. I am throwing food in bags for hungry kids, and there are laundry piles covering the hallway, and dishes stacked messily in the sink. There’s just STUFF everywhere.
I don’t have time to sort it, throw it out, put it away so the stuff just piles up.
The same thing happens in my heart. When I am too busy, my house begins to reflect what my heart feels.
I don’t have time to process the joy, peace, pain, so I shove it all to the sides of my heart and think I will get to it later.
But actually, there is no time later either, because I am so busy. And so the clutter stacks up on my kitchen counters, and the edges of my heart.
Winter and I do not have a great relationship. The days are short, gray, and cold. My rambunctious kids are cooped up inside, and while I really do want to savor all seasons that God has created and given, winter just stretches me in very painful ways.
This year, I came up with a brilliant idea to help make January and February fly by. I thought that I would sign up my children in lots of extracurricular activities to keep us busy through those cold months. It gets us out of the house, and would distract me from the gray, cold landscape outside.
I soon realized, however, that trying to distract myself from reality by being busy was not in fact making the pain and stress go away, it was making it worse.
The busy made my home and heart so cluttered, I could hardly breathe.
Being busy can be a distraction from the most important things.
Clutter overwhelms, we can’t see past it. Then the management of the clutter itself keeps us busy, keeps us from actually dealing with all the stuff.
So full of anxiety, and staring at all the excess of stuff we have, I begin to attack clutter in my home. I think to myself, “We have too much of everything!” Too many coats, shoes, toys, coffee mugs. I cannot appreciate what I do have and love, because it is hidden by the excess.
Tackling my side of the closet, or the glasses in the kitchen cabinet seem to put me back in charge. I feel like my sanity is slipping in other areas, deeper areas, so I focus on what I can control in that very moment. And I feel very much in control as I toss the stuff into the Goodwill bags.
Every item I dump feels like one cool tiny raindrop on a parched dry soul, offering momentary relief to a problem that really has nothing to do with the clutter in my home, and is really about the clutter in my heart.
Cleaning up the clutter in my home begins to feel symbolic, and the more frantic I work, the stronger He begins to press on my heart.
You are anxious and overwhelmed, and instead of focusing on the clutter of your heart, and what is keeping you from ME, you have chosen to focus on the physical clutter you can see with your eyes, and really has no eternal impact.
Clutter in our hearts comes to us easily, and quickly. Without guards set up around our hearts, we can easily become overwhelmed without even knowing it by the endless amounts of information streaming into our homes, and into our minds.
Can the well of our hearts handle both tainted, wordly water and the water of life? The answer is no. Eventually, one will over-take the other.
Trying to busily rush through the months that were hardest for me by over-scheduling my family, was leaving me even more empty and dry. Sure, I was distracted, but not in the way I intended. Winter still glared in my face, and all I had lost was the peace and quiet moments that bring me sanity.
All the running around was distracting me ultimately from Jesus presence. He whispers to me:
“Have you made yourself so busy that there is no room for Me in your heart?”
When I am overwhelmed with busy, my life feels cluttered. When I have an excess of clutter, I am distracted and burdened by it.
I have learned a few lessons about stuff-purging. You cannot see and use what you have and love because there is so much excess. The useful things are crowded out by the clutter.
The same holds true in our hearts. Have God-truths about you, your worth, and your purpose been crowded out because of the excess clutter of cultural lies?
SO YES, MY LIFE, MY HOUSE, MY HEART FEELS CLUTTERED. NOW WHAT?
This last holiday season, my oldest daughter and I pulled out all of our Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving day. We had already purchased our huge, fresh cut tree and it was shoved into a corner of the living room, looking out of place and honestly, in the way. There was no perfect spot for the tree in our living room, so we kept moving furniture and things around, trying to find the best arrangement. What we soon realized, however, was that we didn’t need to simply rearrange the items currently in the living room, we needed to make room. Making room for the tree meant clearing out the things that weren’t necessary.
If we wanted room for the Christmas tree, and if we wanted that tree to look like it belonged in our living room for the next month, some other things needed to go. In this case, we needed to first remove the unnecessary, then rearrange what was left.
When there is something you need or want in your life that is new- you may need to make room for it. You may need to say no to one thing, in order to say yes to the best thing.
Simply adding in new, without getting rid of the old, will leave us tired and overwhelmed with clutter.
Here are some practical questions to ask during a “clear the clutter” processing day:
A better word to replace BUSY.
Let’s be straightforward. Clearing clutter and being less busy does not equate idleness and laziness. I have literally wrestled with the Lord over this word, busy, and what it represents in my heart. Because remember, I used to glorify busy. Often I tried to justify my busy because I was doing really good things.
God is teaching me to replace the word busy with a different phrase: peaceful diligence.
Peace reigns when I remember who is ultimately in control (and it’s not me).
Diligence means I can be busy about the Father’s business, yet be altogether unhurried in the process.
When we look at the gospels, Jesus was never hurrying, yet He was diligent and purposeful in all He did.
Can an unhurried life actually lend itself to fulfilling God’s call on our lives?
Is all the noise and clutter of our culture that we allow to burden us merely distractions from the calling… to be available, ready to speak, ready to move, ready to stay.
There is nothing idle about peaceful diligence. Let us daily, moment by moment, seek direction and fresh manna from the Spirit of God. Let us choose to be watchful, in an unhurried way, so that when He whispers, we will hear.
Busy makes clutter, busy overwhelms, and busy distracts us. Friends, there is a better way, one that I am still learning to navigate. Make room in your heart for the Prince of Peace, Jesus, who will guide and direct you through all seasons of diligent, yet peaceful, work for the kingdom of God.
Meet Marianne Sloan
You may recognize Marianne Sloan. She wrote a previous post here. She and her husband, Luke, live in the Nashville area. Marianne and I have several mutual friends and our paths crossed last year at the Refresh Retreat. That was the birth of a friendship. Marianne not only helps her husband run their digital marketing agency (http://www.vertical-web.com) but she also homes schools her four kids all while she sneaks time to write her beautiful heart on her blog ( http://mariannemsloan.com). I have been nothing but inspired by the intention and focus Marianne puts into her life. She is a gifted writer and expresses His heart with words so beautifully. If Nashville and Dallas were closer I would want to go get coffee, bring a notepad, and sit and listen to her share her heart. It is an honor to post her insight here on the Refresh blog. Enjoy. - Jamie