On therapeutic busyness.

I suffer from therapeutic busyness. Id like to think im not alone in this. I like to be busy and being busy is therapy for me. Being born on a saturday, and ‘a saturday child works hard for a living’ as I was told frequently might have something to do with it, or nothing. In most of my work settings I’ve been over my hours, some by 100 a year. But is that ministry demands or me.

They say that the pace of life gets quicker, but I’m handling it all one bowl of washing up to do every few hours at a time, or tea to be made, dog to be walked, shopping to be done. And dont get me started on gardening and growing my own produce. It’s a serial curse for the busyoholoic.

Always something to be watered, cut, protected, sown, grown and tended to. And it’s good, I tell myself.

Then theres social media, and this blog itself. I’m being busy now writing this, not being in the moment as I’m on the pacer train on a non delayed northern service to newcastle

But yeah, social media busyness, scrolling, writing, commenting, sharing, thinking, joining in and reacting to stuff, being busy but not being. In a way it doesn’t form part of my daily schedule, it just becomes it, or it can..

Over 18 years ago now the youngest of my two grandads died quite suddenly. He knew he had less than a week to live, but didn’t tell anyone. And the time that he died it was before we had our now two teenage children. So, as a couple we could talk, reflect, share and also do shock, grief and recovery. Or at least have time to do these things. Maybe at the time we did too much, but the point being, we as a couple had the time. Fast forward less than 5 years to when my other grandad died, by then at least one of our children was born and was quite young. Every day then was a combination of work, of the daily needs of dealing with a challenging daughter, feeding, eating, bed time , playing and generally clearing up all the mess from feeding, playing and bedtime. And the stuff for ourselves. Busyness as a new parent took over. Probably the only time to do any serious talk was after 9pm when we’re both shattered or in the car on the way to the funeral. The needs of the immediate took over. But also busyness was a therapy, a distraction.

And. Generally. It hasn’t stopped. Not that I’m suffering grief in any way. But one drama can be dealt through therapeutic washing up and vacuuming. So after a month in May, of my wife, Lynn, needing an operation (expected though the recovery is taking a lot longer than her previous 3 operations in the last 4 years), the dog also needing overnight emergency vet services (which we discovered yesterday will not be covered by insurance leaving us £900 short) and it being the last month of my work contract, this has all happened with all the drama and activity of daily life.

There has been no choice but to be busy. Even if I’m travelling to hospitals and vets all day.. tea still needs cooking (and did I remember to get anything out the freezer? ) for those teenagers, and the house needs putting back into order. And then there’s no milk. Or there’s no lunch money. Or the washing needs taking out, or there’s a room that needs cleaning for visitors coming. There’s no stopping to think , there’s too much to do. There’s too much to do so I don’t think . And I’m still in the middle of all this. And still will be for a while.

So when someone asks the question. ‘How are you?’ I actually don’t know. I’ve been trying not to think about the stuff just having to get on with the stuff. Its been made easier as most people ask ‘How’s Lynn?’ And that’s easier to answer. Half the time I don’t know where I am not how I am. With a million thoughts going through my head, like I hope I haven’t left the house with something that Lynn shouldn’t do, but will do, like hanging out the washing or lifting the vaccuum..

And what happens when I stop? I’m not sure. Stopping hasn’t happened. Things just need to be done.

Today, after all that personal reflection.. (and rare thing on this blog) I ask- how easy is it for churches and ministries to suffer from therapeutic Busyness?

We like to run projects, franchises, activity, services, groups and events and keep the questions at bay, because there’s stuff going on and there’s stuff to do. There’s keeping up with the church down the road or festivals and ceremonies. The immediate need is granted. But dangerously the people involved in our projects and ministry can become viewed as numbers and customers and everything is about being busy. And we convince ourself it’s what’s needed.

What if instead it’s not about being busy but about being present. But if we stop being busy we might lose something, an identity and something of who we are as a church as a ministry. Maybe we do need to stop. Everyone else is busy. There’s no point being busy if we’re not loving the world through it. There is rest in the kingdom. The burden of discipleship is light.

If we stopped being busy and started being present, what then? For us? For churches and for our communities?

What kind of faith is one that interrupts the busy and calls us to stop, to delve deep, to meander not run, to notice not have notices, that .. slows.. down.

The one that’s dangerous and uncomfortable.

It’s not the work but the silence that’s needed.

‘always we have to look. Today suddenly a flower is the reason for your surprise. Tomorrow, it may be the same flower, just with a different colour, because of the age of the flower’ (Paulo Friere)

Did you stop and notice the flower? Or too busy …

Advertisements

Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.