Henri Nouwen in his book The Way of the Heart say, ”Our society is not a community radiant with the love of Christ, but a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul….
….Just look for a moment at our daily routine in general we are very busy people. We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead. Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are worth thinking, saying or doing. We simply go with the many ‘musts’ and ‘oughts’ that have been handed on to us…..
….Why is this so? The answer is quite simple…
…Our identity and our sense of self is at stake. The false self is the self that is fabricated by social compulsions. Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired……Whether I am a businessman, a pianist, a minister (or a charity worker) what matters is how I am perceived by the world (or at least my colleagues and friends). If being busy is a good thing then I must be busy, if having money is a sign of freedom then I must claim my money (or buy those new things), if knowing many people improves my importance I will have to make the necessary contacts. The compulsion manifests itself in the fear of failing and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same – more work, more money (or possessions), more friends.”
The desert fathers and mothers decided to escape the rat race of the 4th and 5th centuries and spend time in solitude. “Good for them” I hear you say, “I can’t do that, I have a family to look after, a mortgage to pay. I don’t have time for stillness and solitude!”
What I have come to realise is that if I don’t have stillness and solitude, if I don’t take time out to stop and wonder and to admire our amazing God and the beauty of His creation then I am living a half-life robbed of the joy and experience that God has in store for me.
God has not just called me to “do” he has called me to “be”: to be His child. He has chosen me and called to live my life following the path that He has set for me. He has also called me to ‘be’ the person that He has designed me to be. If I am too busy in the rat race how do I know I am on the right path, how do I have time to reflect not just on what I do but on who I am. Am I the person that God wants me to be? Am I filled with the fruits of the spirit? If not then it’s time in solitude that is needed to spend time with God, giving Him the space to challenge who I am and shape me into who He wants me to be. It’s silence and solitude, spending time just being with God where I can learn who I truly am as His child and can be equipped to go back into the world to serve Him. It’s in silence and solitude that my soul can be renewed by His presence, the beauty of His world and be surrounded by His love, giving me the strength and wisdom to face the rat race.
I’m now beginning to realise that making time for silence and solitude each day is not an optional extra, it’s essential if I am to experience life in all its fullness and the true blessings that God wants to bestow on me. Without it I am missing out on the most fundamental part of life – being at one with God, feeling his love, experiencing his peace and ensuring that He is at the heart of who and am and He is the one who inspires what I do.
I need to get off the treadmill, out of the rat race, and spend some time in the desert, not a dry and barren place, but a quiet place where I can learn ‘the way of the heart’.
If you need help with the practicalities of stopping being busy and having time wisdom, you might find Stephen Cherry’s book ‘Beyond Busyness’ a useful read.