I have a secret to tell you. I’ve fallen in love. My new romance is exhilarating and fun. When I’m with my love, I feel empowered and important. I feel productive and confident. Being with my love makes me feel alive. It’s a thrill.
But this feeling lasts maybe a day or two. Then I become irritable and overworked. I’m exhausted, just barely holding it together. Days slip by and I barely notice. I’m so consumed by my love that it’s taking over my life. I can’t sit still or take time off, I have too much invested. If I don’t come through, everything will come crashing down around me. I have a love/hate relationship with…
I fall hard for busyness. It makes me feel important, like I’m a valuable member of society. I’m only really committing to that one church project that could really use my input… those 2 sorority events that need my participation… and that 5k that I really want to run. Shoot, I just remembered the errands that I forgot to do yesterday that are now urgent! And I need to prepare for my 5 student meetings today. Oh and I guess I need to kiss my husband at some point and feed my cat. I say yes to too many things, telling myself, “I can do this, I’m awesome!” when really, the cost outweighs the benefit. This isn’t real love, it’s infatuation.
If you were ever 13, you know what infatuation is. It comes on hot and heavy and it burns out quickly. Busyness is deceiving, we think it makes us look good and feel good but this is fleeting. When we have a moment to breathe, we discover that our relationships- with friends, family, and God- are strained and we are on a sprint toward burn-out. We thought we were occupying the corner office in a high rise when, in reality, we are sitting the basement of a condemned building.
I don’t want to be in this toxic relationship anymore. It’s unhealthy and abusive. So how do I break free? The opposite of busyness is not laziness. The opposite of busyness is retreating.
Planning a Retreat of Silence
One of my favorite spiritual disciplines is retreats of silence (ROS). If we don’t want busyness to control us anymore, we need to set aside intentional time to slow down and reconnect with ourselves and God. This doesn’t mean that we have to check ourselves into a monastery and take a vow of silence all day (although you can if you’d like and I bet that’d be fabulous). But it is an experience that we plan in order to intentionally connect with God in a more private way.
Here are 3 tips for planning a great ROS:
Set aside time. It doesn’t have to be a whole day. When I do an ROS, I plan for 3 to 6 hours. If this is your first time doing an ROS, start with 2 to 3 hours. If this sounds overwhelming, try 1 hour! Give what you are able and trust that God will honor your gift of time.
Figure out what the best atmosphere is for you to connect with God. When I plan an ROS, I like to start the morning by going to my favorite coffee shop. I eat breakfast, sip on my coffee and journal about any thoughts, concerns, or anticipations that could distract from my experience with God. I tell those things to God, set them aside, and ask him to help me to focus on him and what he wants to teach me.
Choose activities that help you connect with God. After breakfast, I head to my favorite park and grab a spot in the shade. Sometimes I like to read a Christian book. Other times I like to create something, like a drawing or a poem. I also like to engage with the Bible during that time. I read a story from one of the gospels and meditate on that. Sometimes I go for a long run, praying and worshipping God through nature and physical activity. If you don’t naturally connect to God with nature, you can head to a public library or a favorite spot in your city. The point is to put yourself in places that help you connect with God and hear from him.
Try planning an ROS once a month or a couple of times year.
If you are in the throws of your romance with busyness, this may sound horrifying or unattainable. Aren’t all break-ups messy and painful? But my promise is that busyness will never satisfy. The only thing that truly satisfies is when we allow God to be the source of our worth and value. And the way out of busyness and into health is through retreating and slowing down.
So let’s do it together, let’s break-up with busyness.
Grab a calendar and schedule when you can do a retreat of silence. Maybe this weekend? Or maybe next month? Write it in with a pen (that alone might freak you out) and tell your spouse or a friend your plan. I just scheduled mine for this Thursday, June 5. Do whatever you need to do to protect this time. Hire a babysitter (If you live in Salt Lake City, I will come over and watch your kids, seriously, email me), say no to that attractive event that pops up, finish your errands ahead of time, kiss your S.O. and feed your cat.
You need this. I need this. Jesus needed it and he’s God-in-flesh! Let’s stop being controlled by busyness.
Here are a few guides to help you with your retreat.