How to be still when you’re busy.

This was my badge of honor—my busy badge. I wore it proudly for twenty years. Whenever someone asked me about my life, I would begin with three words: “It’s so busy!” I equated busyness with prominence, productivity, and position. It was my social pride and joy. I’m reluctant to admit it was a source from which I drew my worth. For me, to be was to be busy.

I was saying yes to things I should have said no to, doing things instead of delegating them, all while trying to be everything to everyone in my life, and all in the name of being busy—and I was failing. It had to stop.

Four years ago, at a private ceremony attended by myself and those closest to me, I burned my busy badge and with it, the most effective way I knew how to determine my own personal value. #momentofsilence

Deciding to banish busy from my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual life has been incredibly freeing. It has also left a gaping hole in my understanding of being and I have spent the past four years trying to reorient my life around what it means to be without being busy. In a rather full-circle sort of irony, it has been a trial-by-fire.

After I decided I no longer wanted to be busy, I determined I needed systems to manage the chaos. I began to practice a discipline of writing things down—moving things from the ethereal realm to the concrete world. I purchased a different planner with fewer time slots and more blank space. I journaled streams of consciousness and took naps. I read, played, and prayed.

Sometimes a practice would stick for an extended period of time, but inevitably it would run its course and it was on to the next system to keep my life less busy. It went on like this for a while. I would equate it to shoving a square peg into a round hole—nothing really truly fit.

To complicate matters further, it all seemed counterintuitive. Just because I had a desire to be less busy didn’t alter the reality that life was happening all around me. Some days, my efforts felt pointless. Who was I kidding? Just because I refused to say I was busy didn’t change the fact that life was full. I desperately wanted to gather up the ashes of my busy badge and reassemble the fragile pieces. If I’m going to run around like a mad woman I might as well give myself the honor of wearing the badge.

It was so frustrating—why did God make me this way? I feel so compelled to stay in motion. Life is happening and I’m still reaching for more. God, why does my mind need to imagine, my heart connect with people, my hands reach out to my family, my feet stay on the go, and why don’t my words just stay inside—why? Why can’t I just be still?

Be still.

As I write those words, my eyes are brimming with tears. Still. Even today.

Be still.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:28-30 (ESV)

After years of trying, I arrived at the same conclusion I often do: I cannot do for myself what only God can do. I needed to place myself in the path of God’s grace if I had any hope of finding freedom from the endless search for stillness. I only needed to sit in the presence of God and be.

Sitting quietly, breathing deeply, and focusing on him, I sensed his presence. As God stilled the waters of my heart, much like the words in Psalm 107:28-30, I found myself at peace. After a period of quiet, I don’t even know how long, I found myself able to ask God for help. “What do I do?”

I have heard the voice of God many times in my life, sometimes audibly. That day, I heard God with crystal clarity. I heard him say, “I made you exactly the way I wanted to make you. I delight in you. Your life is full because I have made you for it. Allow me to fill you to the brim. Here. In the stillness.

I visualized a cup brimming with water—living water. Overflowing.

My need to be busy in order to feel valued was replaced by my need to be in God’s presence where he can fill me to the brim with his presence, love, power, and grace. These things, God’s love, power, and grace, are the source of my strength. They allow me to do life fully, even when life is full.

Four years ago, I burned my busy badge. I’m okay with it.

3 thoughts on “How to be still when you’re busy.

  1. I could relate to this in so many ways! I feel like I’m at that exact place of finally realizing His presence is where the peace is found in the busyness. So beautifully written. 💚

  2. So relatable to my life and mentality. Been working on this very thing for a bit now. Thanks for mentioning Psalm 107. Love that imagery and LOVE how God is so much bigger and better than busyness. Thanks for the sweet blogpost!

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