By SHERYE S. GREEN
Busier Isn’t Always Better
These last few weeks since the school year began are among some of the most arduous for teachers like myself. Seemingly overnight, the lazy routine of summer has come to a screeching halt. In its place, the beginning of another school year brings with it the rapid pace of developing new lesson plans and designing fresh, engaging ways to reach students.
This same season is also a time when, in addition to cultivating orderly systems for my classroom, I am also working at home to corral paperwork that seems to have taken on a life of its own during the summer recess. If only I could determine how paper multiplication occurs? Must be related to the same mystical process in which textile reproduction occurs in my laundry basket, as evidenced by more socks pulled from the dryer than were placed into the washing machine. Seems the older I get, the more paperwork there is to keep up with.
Recently, on a particularly busy day, while seated at my dining room table, engaged in paper sorting, I happened to glance upon a needlework sampler hanging on the wall, one I made years ago. A verse, from the Shaker song, “Simple Gifts,” arrested me in my tracks. One of my favorite lyrics, penned by 18th-Century Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr., bid me pause from my busy task:
“’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.”
The simple, yet profound words of this verse reminded me that busier isn’t always better. Simple is better. This modern world spins at such a frenzied pace that it’s easy to lose the joy of simple things. A good book. A long nap. A heart to heart with a treasured friend. A basic, home-cooked meal. Unhurried time spent in the presence of the Lord.
I am finding that the older I get, responsibilities in both my professional and personal lives have increased. There is a certain energy derived from successfully executing a detailed plan, especially on days when the lesson goes as planned or when the meal I’ve prepared at home tastes better the than the recipe said it would. However, to carry out either a well-planned classroom lesson or pull off a perfect chicken piccata requires attention to detail that will not happen if I’m too busy.
One of my favorite New Testament stories is that of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, who along with their brother, Lazarus, were three of Jesus’ best friends. The account in Luke’s Gospel tells us Jesus had come to visit the family. Martha “was distracted with all her preparations” (Luke 10:40 NASB). How I identify with this woman. Like Martha, my engine always seems to be running. Most days, if I’m not careful, that’s where I find myself—busier than I need to be and frustrated because of it.
Mary, on the other hand, seemed to have maneuvered her internal engine into a perpetual state of calm, not sitting idly by, but savoring the simple moments of every day and all the better for it. We find her sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening intently to His every word, while her sister is scurrying furiously around the kitchen. You can almost hear the pots clanging and the cabinet doors slamming.
The writer Luke goes on to tell us that when Martha’s consternation over the fact that her sister’s top was not spinning as quickly as her own reached a boiling point, she complained to Jesus, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40 NASB). Jesus gently reminds the her that Mary had chosen the “good part” (Luke 10:42 NASB).
I don’t know about you, but this middle ages’ season of my own life has been as busy or busier than seasons past. It’s difficult to maintain singular focus, like that of Mary, when there are so many demands on my time. Too often I realize I’m engaged in some project or have taken on some new responsibility that God never meant for me to take on. Quiet time alone with Him on a regular basis affords me time to lay my calendar before Him.
As time is a precious commodity, a chief desire of my heart is to make sure my time is spent in a way that pleases my Lord. More and more, I am working to find ways to slow down and to really smell the roses of this life. That will certainly never happen when I’m following a busy routine at a breakneck speed.
Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them [His children] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). The world’s system says that busier is better and that one is what one does. God’s system is totally different. He places more value on who we are, rather than what we are accomplishing. The gifts of simplicity and freedom that the Shakers sang about can be ours, but only if we make a conscious choice to live life at a purposely-slower pace.
My prayer is that your eye might fall upon some “sampler” in your own life, a reminder that busier isn’t always better.
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian, a teacher at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Church Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul.