Parish Magazine Article - February 2020
"I’m not busy"
This year Lent begins in the last week of February and I have been reflecting recently on the various traditions and activities that surround this season of the churches year. We all love Shrove Tuesday with pancakes and all the fun associated with it and Ash Wednesday with its very visible sign of penitence but if you are anything like me then Lent loses its focus.
Don’t misunderstand me I have tried giving things up and can easily go without chocolate or alcohol but it doesn’t make me feel much more holy. In truth, I am more likely to be less holy and more Victor Meldrew. I have tried taking things up and again I can set out a bit like New Year Resolutions with lots of good intentions but very quickly things crowd in and the opportunity is swamped. We are not short of initiatives to help both from National Church and local, we have Lent courses and Lent lunches and a plethora of things we can do.
In fact, this is my problem we tend to give value to activity and action and much less value on reflection and contemplation. Lent is ultimately a penitential season so we console ourselves with the sense we are as the Prayer Book puts it ‘acknowledging our wretchedness and lamenting our sins.’ Yet I think if we are honest many of us feel chased from pillar to post constantly busy and to use a different metaphor 'chasing our tails.'
We live in a world of instant everything not least because smart phones, email, tablets and the like make us instantly contactable and before we know it we are controlled and ruled by the very technology that was supposed to make our lives easier. Yet actually we are or at least should be in control of our own destiny and time. As the Clinical Psychologist Dr Henry Cloud has observed: ‘If you don’t learn to say no and be a steward over your time and energy, then you are not going to have any to give.’
We often find we don’t have capacity to do stuff but the reality is often all of us fill our time with the first thing we are asked to do rather than consider whether it is the right thing or whether we are the best person to do it. We are responsible for our own actions and we shouldn’t blame anyone else when we get overloaded. Self-management, self-discipline and self-control are all part of managing our capacity and stewarding our time.
So I have committed myself over the last few years to use Lent to say: ‘I am not busy.’ To actively when people ask not to use the words ‘I am busy’ or ‘I am so busy’. Instead to stop reflect and create space to say No. To not talk about my capacity, or my full diary but instead to refuse to give in to unnecessary business and to give space to the things that matter. It is not about taking something up or giving something up it is instead about discipline, self-control and being kind to myself and others.
So why not join me in rejecting the sense of business? It is both disabling and guilt inducing and instead embrace the freedom that is found in being a ‘human being’ rather than a ‘human doing’