…and if I have such complete faith
that I can move mountains
but I don’t have love,
1 Corinthians 13:2b
Last week, I wrote about an empty desk as I moved out of an office I had occupied for 4 years and wondered, “What’s Left Behind?” Today, I’m writing about a full desk in an office I moved into 4 days ago and wondering “What’s Up Ahead?”
On that new desk are the congregation’s prayer requests from last week, notes about hospital visits, an address list for visitors I’ve written to, detailed reports on the church budget, a computer logged into a busy inbox and a church database, information for Sunday’s baptism, a schedule for a dozen group gatherings over the next two months, notes from a few meetings I’ve already had, plans for the fall stewardship campaign, a couple of Bibles, a hymnal, a notebook of sermon plans for the next 4 months, a calendar of appointments with individuals, and a draft of Sunday’s sermon. If these first 4 days in my new appointment are any indication, I will be very busy for the foreseeable future.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining at all. I love the activity of pastoral ministry. But as I look at all the signs of busyness, I’m suddenly aware of something fundamentally vital: all the busyness–even the religious busyness–doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not rooted in living and sharing the love of Christ.
I think that’s why even Jesus had to step back from the busyness to connect with God’s Spirit on a regular basis:
Early in the morning, well before sunrise,
Jesus rose and went to a deserted place
where he could be alone in prayer.
Simon and those with him tracked him down.
When they found him, they told him,
“Everyone’s looking for you!”
“Let’s head in the other direction,
to the nearby villages,
so that I can preach there too.
That is why I’ve come.”
It seems even Jesus needed to step back, look at the signs of busyness, and remind himself of why he had come.
That’s the critical point of St. Paul’s famous passage on love from 1 Corinthians 13. We can do all kinds of spiritual activities, but if they aren’t rooted in love, they don’t mean a thing.
So I’m looking at busyness–good busyness, important busyness, helpful busyness. But I’m reminding myself that if what’s up ahead is just busyness, then that’s really not saying so much. On the the other hand, if the activity and effort is rooted in living and sharing Christ’s love, then the work will be a source of God’s grace for the people and community I serve. Now that’s worth it!
What’s your busyness–spiritual or otherwise? Do you need to step back, take a look at it, and ask “Why?” When Jesus did, he decided to go in a different direction. Do you need to remind yourself, like I need to all the time, that all the busyness in the world is really worthless unless it’s rooted in love and creating love?
I want to look back and see that Christ made a difference through me–that Christ’s love, activated through me, transformed the people and circumstances I’ve touched. I don’t expect to always get it right, but I know that it’s far more likely if I’m paying closer attention to why I’m doing what I’m doing.
All the busyness on my desk, all the activity up ahead, all the effort I’ll expend: it’s only worth it if it’s rooted in living and sharing Christ’s love.