Busyness is not a spiritual gift.
“We need chaperones for the youth mission trip, are you available to help out?”
“Sunday School teachers needed! Sign up today!”
“You’re a tenor, right? How about singing in the choir?”
“We need helpers in the kitchen for our yearly women’s luncheon, can we count on you?”
I have to admit, I am one of those people quoted above. In my work at our church, I rely on volunteers to keep my music ministry running. Soloists, music librarians, meal providers, there is no end to the list of ways to serve in the church. And they all seem like such worthwhile ways to spend our time, don’t they?
But I have a secret to tell you, right from the mouth of a church staff member:
I respect those people who know their limits, prayerfully consider a request and say no when it doesn’t rank high on their list of priorities.
Now those of you who know me from church, don’t always say no, OK??
On a serious note, though, there have been certain individuals who are very faithful to the call that God has placed on their lives in serving the church through the music or other ministries and yet have set clear boundaries so that they keep a balance in their life. They put family first, look for ways to serve in the areas of their gifts, and keep their plates from overflowing with too many “good” things.
In Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weaver digs deeply into this topic of balance.
While there are many things that need to be done, things I’m capable of doing and want to do, I am not always the one to do them. Even if I have a burden for a certain need or project, my interest or concern is not a surefire sign that I need to be in charge. God may only be calling me to pray that the right person will rise up to accomplish it. What’s more, I may be stealing someone else’s blessing when I assume I must do it all.
I have so many ways I want to serve- with and without my family. I have felt a call to begin a nursing home ministry, work with Habitat for Humanity through our church, and join the women’s prison ministry. I would love to teach Sunday school classes, begin a Titus 2 ministry, and maybe work as a Stephen’s minister. Could you imagine if I jumped in with both feet into all of these projects? My life would be ten times as chaotic and I couldn’t possibly serve with a full heart and mind in each ministry. While there are many noble endeavors, they are not all meant for this season of my life.
In the story of Mary and Martha and their hospitality, Jesus chides Martha for her worry and busyness while praising Mary’s attention to the “one thing that is needed”- spending time at his feet. God’s desire for us first is clear in Isaiah:
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.”
We are first and foremost to know him, then service will be a natural outgrowth of what we know and believe and understand of our loving God. Martha’s “fault was not that she served, [but] that she grew ‘cumbered with much serving’, so that she forgot him and only remembered the service.” (Charles Spurgeon) I want to make sure my relationship with God in Christ is an everyday one and not let desire to take on too much, or even guilt from not doing enough, keep me from Jesus’ feet.
Lisa Harper is right. Busyness is not a spiritual gift. We do each have at least one spiritual gift, however, and it’s important to know what it is. If you’ve never taken a spiritual gift assessment, you can find one here. As a part of the body of Christ, I look forward to doing my part. In Joanna Weaver’s book she quotes Jill Briscoe in saying,
“It’s a great release to know that the secret to ‘doing it all’ is not necessarily doing it all but rather discovering which part of the ‘all’ he has given us to do and doing all of that.”
I don’t have any illusions of having tons of free time, but I want to feel as if I can devote myself to the ‘one thing’ that’s most important and listen for God’s call in my life without taking on every service activity that speaks to me. Then the things I do choose will be more meaningful and have more of an impact for Christ.