Take Time to Be Unproductive

Aug 2, 2022 by

By Kelly Kapic, Desiring God:

How Busyness Can Waste a Life.

Søren Kierkegaard, a nineteenth-century Danish theologian and social critic, once wrote in his journal, “The result of busyness is that an individual is very seldom permitted to form a heart.” We sense in our souls he is right. Unrelenting busyness — running here and there, late and in haste, always with more to do than we have time for — stifles the life of the heart.

Yet I fear that many in the church, especially those of us in various forms of leadership, often pursue that very busyness. We occasionally warn others about burnout and stress, but we are constantly in motion, endlessly feeling harassed by all that clamors to be done and feeling guilty for projects we haven’t completed. And we frequently pass that stress on to others, in subtle but destructive ways — we are busy, so we can act like everyone else should be busy. If they are not, we can treat them as lazy or negligent.

But is our problem primarily that we are not more productive, or is it that we have allowed unrealistic expectations to distort our vision of faithfulness? While it’s very likely that we could become better organized and more efficient, pursuing those efforts may feed and hide the true problem rather than helping it. What if the heart of our trouble is not time management, but something else? What if the goal of Christian life isn’t merely to get more done? And if that’s true, why do many of us feel a need to fill every moment either with items we can check off a to-do list or with mindless distraction? Binge-watching television and hours spent on social media may be more symptoms than causes of our problems, signs of a deeper malady.

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