Sadly, there is still more to the picture. My husband gently confronted me just the other day about how I am always doing something when I’m around others, specifically when I’m around him and the kids. He said I don’t do still very well. While the rest of the family is content to just sit and be with each other, I’ll sit as well but I’m always doing something. So not only am I hiding in busyness in my relationship with God but I’m also doing it in my relationship with others. Ouch.
A bit of self-examination here is necessary to unpack the reasons behind the behavior. For instance, is this happening because I’m reflecting behavior that was modeled for me? Or is this happening because there is an emotional detachment resulting from a trauma? Or perhaps it is happening because of some biological component like ADD, ADHD, or restless leg syndrome. Or maybe it is as simple as a thought that my value in life comes from what I do not who I am.
It can be difficult to examine where the behavior is coming from initially but if you take a moment to review the main events in your life from birth till now almost as an outsider watching a filmed version of it, you will most likely discover one if not more of the reasons behind your behavior. Here again are the areas of examination: environmental, emotional, biological, or mental. Normally, spiritual would also be added to the equation but since that was already addressed earlier, further examination is needed.
For environmental, ask yourself: who does this behavior remind me of? Is it a family member, your mother, your father, a teacher, a close friend or a pastor? For emotional, ask yourself: are my actions driven by how I feel? Is there a strong emotion you feel such as anxiety, anger, frustration or fear? For biological, ask yourself: have I been diagnosed with anything that may be linked to the behavior? Has anyone told you that you might be depressed, have a heart condition, or other serious illness? For mental, ask yourself: what are the phrases I’m repeating in my head? Is it “you are not good enough” or “if I don’t, they won’t like me”?
Looking back over my life it is not hard to find whom I resemble in my busyness and as life would have it, it is the very person I struggle with the most. The obvious conclusion over who I struggle with the most is my biological father who abandoned me or abusive first husband but that is not the case. No, I have long forgiven them. The person I struggle with the most is my 99 year old grandmother and if you are a member of my immediate or extended family, there is no doubt in my mind that we are all in agreement over our common struggle.
Just saying it most likely sounds bizarre to a person outside of our family but it is true nonetheless. There are many images conjured up about a 99 year old woman, she is fragile or sick maybe bed ridden in a nursing home with so much wisdom to offer. But that is not the case here; no, she lives alone in her home because no one wants to live with her and she doesn’t want to live with anyone, including any animals. She is paranoid about everyone including family and she intrudes on all of our lives so aggressively that most of the family avoids her. Wow that sounds harsh, but it is true.
Yet she does not stop praying for each and every one of us because she has learned in her 99 years that she can take all of her excessive worries to God and He will answer her prayer. In fact she is convinced that the reason good things happen to her family is because of her prayers and who am I to dispute it. In addition, if you were to examine her life, there are many justifiable reasons for her paranoia, anxiety, and aggression but that is not significant for now. What is important is the link back to busyness.
Even now if you were to spend an afternoon with her she would not sit still for longer than a few minutes (unless she is sleeping which she does more frequently now). She is constantly getting up because she is sure you need something or she forgot something or she just has to do this one more thing. It is exhausting to watch her and for many years of my life when my mom was a single parent, we lived with her and she was a dominate force in my life, well actually is a dominate force in my life.
As a child I used to play games with her, without her knowledge, to see how long I could get her to just sit still. I’d entice her to a game of rummy cards, distract her with a story, or ask her to make some tapioca pudding and see how long it took before she was off doing something else. My best time was 15 minutes. At the time, I intensely disliked this about her and yet here I am doing the same thing according to my husband.
All too often I have found that what we dislike intensely in others we often have similar characteristics in ourselves. We don’t like that part of our self and therefore justify our dislike by pointing it out in others. The reason I played the sit still game with my grandmother is not because I was trying to control her as much as it was about trying to prove how I was not like her. So I ignored my own busyness tendencies by comparing myself to my grandmother and saying that I was not as bad as her and therefore did not have a problem. It would be as if Martha justified her behavior with Jesus by saying she was not as bad as her mother. No, busyness is busyness just as sin is sin there are no gradations of offenses.
So back to the original point, busyness is apparent in both my spiritual and relational life. In my spiritual life it manifests in lack of still time with God. In my relational life it manifests in lack of still time with my family. This was modeled for me by my grandmother and although I disliked it, I have adopted it. Why? To some degree being busy means you don’t have to give yourself fully or you don’t have to sacrifice anything to another person. Instead you can control just how much of yourself you give or give up because if you become afraid, you can always run to busyness to hide.