by Jill Briscoe
My husband Stuart and I are busy people. People constantly ask us, "How do you two do it?" We are Ministers-at-Large, authors, and speakers. We visit most of the continents in any given year, preaching, speaking, praying, writing, listening, counseling, crying, laughing, giving, receiving, planning, traveling, getting sick, getting well, worrying, wondering, worshipping, and working hard - and we're now in our seventies! It's busy stuff!
We're extremely busy emotionally, physically, socially, mentally, and spiritually. It's hectic, challenging, stretching, rewarding, disappointing, upsetting, and sometimes downright scary. It takes all we are and all we have – a lot of energy, heartaches, headaches, backaches, and just plain work! But are we too busy?
As we are asked to speak to ministry conventions and conferences all over the world, we are seeing more and more focus on busyness themes. I think we are becoming favorite speakers for this track. But I also get the feeling many people consider us the prime bad examples of being too busy! I think the problem is we are so visibly busy. Most people are just as busy as we are, but with other things that aren't as visible.
There now seems to be a whole spiritual industry that has grown out of this – it's the how to be un-busy industry. There are books, tapes, T-shirts, and places to go to unwind. I understand why. In fact, I am on the board of a lovely place where clergy couples can go for free to regroup and refresh. People are burning out, and we need to help. But to lay the reason at the feet of busyness alone is dangerous. You can be busy, very busy, or overly busy. On the other hand, you can be just downright idle. Stuart has said for decades that ministry affords you the grand opportunity to either be so busy you burn out, or so downright lazy that you check out! So what's the balance?
Busyness isn't bad in itself! If you're being un-busy when you ought to be busy, that's bad. You don't burn out being busy doing the work He has given you to do - and that's the key - doing the work He's given you to do. That ‘busy burden' is easy and light because His grand cosmic shoulder is under it! If He has given you something He wants you busy doing, it will not wear you out. It may mean your old body has some wear and tear, but it won't level you.
"Faithful is He that calls you who also will do it!" If He has called you to a hard day's work, He will be waiting in the dawn with the energy you need to accomplish it. He is the energy for the work at hand. Jesus said to the Apostle Paul, "I will show you how many things you must suffer for my sake." Our personal physical health and well-being is not to be our first priority. That's His priority as we obey His directives. In fact, Christianity was dangerous to the early church's health and wellbeing in the early days. Do we need to recapture the spirit and power of cutting edge Christianity that means loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Isn't that, after all, the first thing?
To rest isn't always to rest the body first, though it might be. For each, the inner rest that energizes us for the work He has called us to do is the Sabbath of the heart that should happen 24/7. It is the tranquility of order in the midst of chaos, the whispers of His grace heard by our soul above the cacophony of world-noise. It's the surprises of love in the deep place where nobody goes, as we rest in faith and feel the weight of the world and its troubles - the church and its turmoil – and our personal inner foes flee. It is the ‘yes' of the soul to the call of Christ. "Yes Lord! Anytime, anyplace, anywhere!" That's where the joy that is our strength lies. That's where the rest is to be found.
Jesus was busy all of His life, but as the Father directed. He took the Sabbath off to be busy worshipping His Father. Un-busyness doesn't mean going comatose! Jesus didn't work hard six days a week and go comatose on His day off. The Sabbath is for busyness too, but a different kind: The work of the soul as it worships itself into rest!
Get into the habit of receiving the busyness of the day from Jesus' hands – every day. The Sabbath included. This will mean you cannot be "too busy." He will not allow that. It comes down to how well we hear His voice as we "Come Early."
Not too long ago, I had a pile of speaking invitations I had to answer. I was overwhelmed as I looked at the pile. How could I even read them knowing I had a packed schedule already? My stomach went into a knot. Wasn't I overly busy? Then I heard His voice, "Let's talk: Come early." So I did.
I woke suddenly. Why, I don't know. It was way before light dawned. So I reached for the Golden Book and read a little. I read the pages about the Lord healing Peter's wife's mother. I found it in Mark 1:35.
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where He prayed." I wondered what He had wanted to talk to God about so early that day?
"COME EARLY," a voice said in my ear! Then I knew He wanted me to get up too! Once I was sitting on the steps of my soul and He beside me, we had a lovely talk about it.
"I read in your book, Lord Jesus, that the morning you healed Peter's wife's mother, that that evening the whole town gathered at the door!"
"It was a busy night!"
"The trauma in the morning – and then all those folks healed: all those demons thrown out of people – You must have been exhausted."
"Tired, but happy."
I wondered greatly how He had woken up without an alarm clock the next morning. Maybe He asked one of His beautiful cocks to crow outside His window before dawn!
"I knew the news of the healings would spread and the crowds would be back early," He was saying, "and I needed to talk to My Father."
"And then your four new recruits came after You all excited about the campaign getting off to such a great start and found You! "Everyone's looking for You," they said. And then You said, "‘Let's go somewhere else!' What on earth did they say to that?"
"I told them I needed to keep My focus and go to the small villages and towns that hadn't heard the good news of God. That was why I had come."
"Was that what You wanted to talk to Your Father about: whether you should ride the wave of Your popularity, take advantage of the miracles?" He didn't answer, but somehow I knew.
In the silence, the conviction came to me that in my little way I must not let the crowds determine my ministry either, only God. And I got myself out of bed then and made myself a cup of coffee and took my invitations from a file and laid them out before the Lord.
Suddenly, I was afraid. What would happen if I made wrong choices, allowed others to use me, or direct me for their own ends or ministries? Or, what if I was flattered by a big opportunity and missed the right opportunity? How would I know what to do and where to go?
"COME EARLY," He said. "Then you'll know!" Then my words came easily:
"Cradle me Lord."
"Underneath and all around are the everlasting arms."
"Steady me Lord."
"I am a Rock, stand firm!"
"Give me wisdom beyond myself."
"I am your wisdom."
"Show me the way"
"I Am the Way!"
"Drench me with the gentle dew of heaven. Freshen my faith. Rest me down in your love."
"COME EARLY then, before the wheels of life start turning."
"Here I am!"