The slogan above was on a greetings card bought me by a friend. Clearly it had amused her enough to buy it and it certainly amused me. I like anything that knocks our sense of self-importance for six. And this slogan is clearly tapping into the guilty consciences of those driven by the protestant work ethic, the belief that come the end of the world things will obviously go much better for us if we have been industriously employed at some highly ethical world improving scheme. Woe betide the slacker found down the pub, the bingo or the loitering with intent in the shopping centre. As for those floating about on a cruise ship….
The trouble is there are a couple of parables that Jesus told that do make us think that ‘busy equals good’. The rich fool who said to himself ‘Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry’ popped his clogs that very night (Luke 12:19) the servant who got tired of waiting for his master’s return and began to beat up the other servants he was meant to be caring for, came to a very nasty end. (Luke 12:46) Then there were the 5 foolish virgins who didn’t keep their lamps topped up with oil and weren’t ready for the Bridegroom’s arrival. So clearly being ready, waiting and expectant would be a very good thing.
But is that the same as being ‘busy’? The problem I have is that sometimes some very ‘busy’ people can be really quite obnoxious. You ask them casually how things are going and even though they give the impression of being clearly too busy to stop and talk to you they treat you to the full version of their weekly planner and you rather wish they hadn’t. ‘I’m very busy’ can sometimes be a short-hand for ‘I need you to know how very important I am, if I don’t keep on top of things the world might stop turning’.
Mea Culpa. Forgive me. I’m sure there have been times when I may have given off such horrible ‘busy’ vibes. Which is why the card amused me. It pokes fun at the ridiculous notion that me, on my own, all by myself, might actually change the world. Does that seem negative and defeatist? Am I just a lazy slacker? I don’t think so.
I’ve been mulling over the passage in John 15 about being a fruitful person. One very short phrase stands out to me at the moment: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing‘. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing, in other words ‘no one thing’. So that debunks the notion that Jesus has gone away and left me to attempt some great world changing task all by myself. I am, of course, only meant to be busy getting connected to God. Once that connection is secure, a fruitful life is a promised inevitablity. You never see a fruit tree going red in the face trying to produce apples, it just sits there sucking up all the goodness from the soil and absorbing all the warmth from the sun and bingo! apples galore.
Someone once gave me a brilliant definition of prayer: prayer is just like sun-bathing. You bask in the sunshine and you are gently transformed (assuming full Factor 40 protection! Okay, the analogy isn’t perfect!) Anyway prayer (son-bathing?) is meant to be putting yourself in God’s presence and letting him do the transforming. The simplest prayer may be ‘What shall we do today, God?’