The Busy Balance

Several years ago a lady accused me of being too busy and not available. She was not happy with me, and I was well aware of her irritation. I asked her if I could give her a call later, and she agreed. Before reaching out to her I pondered the best timing of that call, and I prayed for wisdom. I took time to try and think through the situation and the possible outcomes. I tried to prepare myself to genuinely give a listening ear and not be on the defensive. But, what haunted my thoughts the most was her accusation. Was I somehow unintentionally giving the impression to others that I was too busy or unavailable for them?

Within a day, I was able to connect by phone with my accuser. The conversation went something like this.

Me - I’m sorry we weren’t able to talk this through at church yesterday. I’m a bit confused why you believe me to be unavailable. Perhaps I missed a call or an email?

Her - No, I didn’t contact you earlier.

Me – Have I neglected to connect with you in the past?

Her - No, but I've been trying to catch up with you at church. You always seem too busy.

Me – You’re right. Sundays are often not a good time to connect. When I find out that someone would like to speak to with me, I try to get back with them within 24 hours - just like today.

[Silence]

Me - I’m sorry if that does not seem like I care or that I am not easily available to speak with.

[More silence]

Me - Would you like to share your concern with me today or would you like to get together face-to-face later this week?

Her - Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that you aren’t available, you just weren’t available to talk on Sunday when I wanted to talk with you. We can talk now.

In my dream world, I would be available to everyone at a moment's notice. I hate not being instantly available when beckoned. However, it simply is impossible to be all things to all people at all times. As a wife, I swear my husband only calls me when I walk away from the phone. As a mom, the demands are endless. Why does it seem that everyone is happily engaged in an activity until you sit down. Arrrrgh! Did God wire kids (and husbands) to know exactly when the mom takes a brief moment to relax, or just needs to use the bathroom – in private?!

Defining what boundaries need to be set in relationships, in our family, at work and in ministry is often a daily challenge. When my patience is pushed near to the breaking point, I am reminded of the word, servant. God has called each of us to be a servant every day that we are given life. Often, that gentle reminder helps me to keep things in perspective and allows for the needed time to regroup emotionally. Then I can rationally and sweetly approach the crisis-at-hand with grace and clear presence of mind. When we can redirect the demands and panic, we diffuse many of the knee-jerk reactions! The emergency is downgraded to a point of alert or an area of concern.

God has called us each to serve in love, but he has not called us to be enslaved to others' wants and demands. That distinction is often hard to discern. Servanthood includes giving up of self – desires, timelines and preferences. Slavery involves abuse and disrespect, and it often takes the form of bullying. To help keep my perspective in balance, I had a poster (visible to me) in my office for years. It said, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” (author unknown). Just a quick glance at this poster was all I needed to diffuse my unhealthy reaction to any urgent, but non-crisis, demands. You and I are called to serve others, but we are not called to be enslaved to the irresponsible.

Everyone needs grace from time to time, and we all need to go the extra mile for others at times. Balancing all the demands placed on our shoulders can be exhausting, and it is all too easy to take on too much. Learning to say, No, can help to keep the demands of life in check. But, it can be just as beneficial to say, Yes, or to say, “Can I give you a call later this week so we can talk.” There is value found in the conversation, but there is even more value when we are able to serve others as a sounding board, allowing them to deal with their perceived crisis in a calm and thoughtful environment.

Life for most Americans is busy. There is always something to do. Sundays are busy - for pastors, pastors' wives and parishoners. Mid-week services, Bible studies or life group nights can be just as busy for all involved! Busy doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we do need to take charge of and balance our busy. Taking time for God, taking time for others and taking time for ourselves. Sooner or later, each aspect of our life needs our undivided attention and care so that we can live a truly balanced and blessed life.

So, the next time someone demands your ear - when you really can’t spare the time - consider responding in this way – “I’d love to talk with you about that real soon, can you give me a call with a couple times that might work for you?” Offering the opportunity to connect one-on-one gives value to the individual and gives evidence of your willingness to invest in them and to make yourself available. It also puts the responsibility back on their shoulders, and that's okay.

May God grant you wisdom today as you consider your ‘busy’ factor. Is your schedule out of balance? If so, is it just for a season – and is the end in sight? Or, are you over-extended and now find yourself on a never-ending treadmill of obligation? Do you have the courage to stand up to those who may want to push their personal agenda onto your schedule – taking time to share a listening ear while also guarding your heart and home.

Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything. May we take time to worship our Creator and Savior and enjoy our work. May we make the most of our days, but not get caught up in the chaos of busyness. May we be granted understanding to see the blessings that God gives us each day and the forethought to embrace our days here on earth – loving others and blessing our Heavenly Father.

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 12 & 14

So, are you too busy? Or, just busy enough to enjoy this season of life?



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