One of the e-zines I try to keep up with is put out by Christianity Today. Reading a recent article by Carolyn Arends (“Hardworking Sloths: Disguising Spiritual Laziness”), I found myself crying, “ouch!”
Sloths are two- or three-toed creatures that love hanging around their rain forest habitats. They are slow moving and seemingly unindustrious, lending to their name’s more common meaning of a lazy person.
Sprinkled in the article were some quotes by Eugene Peterson:
Sloth is most often evidenced in busyness … in frantic running around,
trying to be everything to everyone, and then having no time to
listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things.
Like the writer of the article, I tend toward extreme busyness. Has anyone reading this ever changed careers? For more than a dozen years I worked for corporations in the fields of editing and marketing. I was also freelance writing throughout that time, and a year ago decided to turn to this as my sole occupation (rather “return”…I worked as a full-time freelance journalist in the 1990s). The effort has been like trying to rouse a sleeping dinosaur or a backward-inclining locomotive. Lots of work.
I can make a lot of legitimate (in my mind) excuses for how crazy my schedule has been this past year, resulting in some successes. I’m not sure it would impress anyone, though, least of all the One whose opinion matters most. To Him, what matters is whether I have loved Him with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength, and shown genuine love (concern, care) for others around me. As Mother Theresa once said (paraphrased): Success has nothing to do with what we accomplish; it is obedience to God.
Taking time to listen and to pray – to remain receptive to God – is the responsibility of every believer, not just spiritual leaders. Taking the necessary time to be quiet before God can be really difficult, if for no other reason than it’s simply easier to stay busy. For the busiest among us, it is a discipline that might require cutting into our “productivity time.” Another ouch! More Peterson, from Arends’ article:
Spiritual disciplines have “not been tried and discarded because [they] didn’t work,
but tried and found difficult (and more than a little tedious) and so shelved in favor
of something or other that could be fit into a busy [person’s] schedule.”
Carolyn Arends is right. “Attending [to God] takes time without offering quantifiable results. It requires stillness in a culture that rewards industriousness. It’s inefficient in a world that considers getting things done next to godliness.”
Making busyness much more self-justifiable and satisfying. But if we look closely at Scripture, everything we have (skills and talents included) is from God. This encompasses our current agendas and future goals, too. Therefore, we are dead wrong to let our daily tasks get in the way of time spent with the One who gives, and can take away, our futures, including our very livelihood. Seen in this light, slaying the sloth of busyness is a very career-prudent thing to do.