Frustrated woman holding a comically long to do listI have a wonderful group of long-term friends. If you don’t, then please go out and find some. It’s not as easy as making a couple of phone calls, though, so be brave and prayerful and persistent. Think of it as a project. And make sure you find one jewel that just won’t let relationships die. In my circle there is a beautiful soul who serves us all with that gift (you know who you are).

So we’ve been dialoging a bit about busyness: that overstressed, underloved, cranky feeling that you will never catch up, never sit down, never do enough, serve enough, be enough. It’s what keeps you from reading to the end of this blog or doing something you enjoy or sitting down for-Heaven’s-sake ten minutes. Lots to talk about here, but the crux of the matter seems to be “No.” We-who-are-busy have internal programming that keeps us from saying it. And that internal programming has to do with our worth. Whether it is our jaded self-appraisal, a perceived command from God or the dour face of a near relative, something inside urges us on to the next tiring task, whispering, “It is not yet sufficient.” So one of my wise friends recently sent me an extended quote containing this zinger: “Don’t let the easily-offended critic set the agenda. Believe in your yes. Hold fast to your no.” (Emily Freeman, Million Little Ways)

Ms. Freeman suggested that the motivation for our firmness should lie in our artfulness, the creative sculpting of our lives and character into lovely shapes. White statue of VenusI have not read her book, but I don’t think easily in terms of art. I have to think in terms of love. Will this decision help me love God and others better? Or will I actually end up loving them less well? ‘Doing’ is only one expression of love, and it can rob me of the capacity to express love in words, in thoughts, in tenderness, and in the true feelings of my heart. Colossians 3 adjures us to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I can’t do that when I’m too busy.

But the hanging judge in my head is ever-present, and I often find it hard to be bold with my “no” unless I’ve spent meaningful time in prayer, Scripture and soliciting wise counsel. (It’s easier to make these decisions for others.) But in a sense, that is already a victory. Waiting, praying, discussing is probably a better response than my knee-jerk, “OK” which robs me of rest. It means that I will begin to listen to other voices, to follow the footsteps of my Savior rather than following the dictates of my inner critic who is never satisfied. That little god refuses to die for me, so better to follow the big God who already did.