I think the year was 2001 or 2002. I was serving as an interim worship pastor at Laurelwood Baptist Church in Vancouver, WA, where Mike Wilde was (and still is) the Senior Pastor. He said something that I thought was really true for that time. I can’t even remember the scripture, but I remember him talking about our busyness. How we were too busy. We were busy with good things, but we were too busy. That was 17 years ago.
Today, we are so busy we don’t even talk about it anymore. We’re too busy to take time to read about being too busy. I remember some of the discussions 17 years ago about the ways we were too busy. It mainly had to do with sports activities whose schedules were becoming more and more demanding of families’ time.
Why are we so busy? I think I know a good portion of why. The internet and social media. Don’t get offended. Yet. Because I’m not trashing it.
While there are some of us who are competitive by nature, and when we see our friends doing something for their families we feel as though we must prove we are as good of a family as they are by doing the same thing or more. But, I don’t think that’s everyone. Kind of an epic keeping up with the Jones’.
I think most of us are much more well-intentioned than that. But, that does not mean we have not suffered under the same effects of the internet and social media. Can I explain? (You know I’m going to, I guess I should be asking, will you continue to read on?)
There are a few ways the internet has contributed to our busyness:
1.) We didn’t used to know about everything. The only way we heard about things was through word of mouth.
We had the yellow pages and the newspaper. That was about it. Marketing to massive audiences was too cost prohibitive for most businesses and organizations. That’s no longer the case. Even most mom and pop shops have a web presence today.
If you wanted to send your kids to a camp, you probably just sent them to the one the church sponsored. Now, there are thousands of camps. Many were already there, some are new. But, we didn’t know about them before. Now we do, and now we want to send our kids to all of them. We didn’t used to know about everything. Now we do, and it’s all at our fingertips.
2.) We didn’t used to see pictures on a daily basis of the awesome lives others are living.
It used to be that the only way to see pictures of someone else’s grand adventure was to be sitting on their couch flipping through a photo album. And even then, when someone shared pictures of their big adventure, we felt compelled to do the same thing. Or we coveted what they were lucky enough to do.
Today, we see pictures on a daily basis of the adventures others are living. On Facebook and Instagram, there is always someone doing something more fun than what I’m currently doing. Maybe it’s a vacation, maybe it’s just a weekend trip. Maybe it’s a family activity, maybe it’s personal retreat. Every day we willing submit to the assault of coveting others’ lives.
And, no matter how un-covetous you are, it affects us all. It’s a constant drip in our conscious and subconscious that there are people who are having more fun, doing more things and experiencing more out of life than we are. And we continue to scroll and subject ourselves to it all. There are people who are more successful, more fruitful and more influential than we will ever be and we can’t measure up.
3.) We didn’t have sophisticated technology that is marketing to us non-stop.
Not only can we find information about every activity under the sun and see our ‘friends’ enjoying them all, now we hold in our hands a device that is designed to market to us non-stop. I heard someone on a podcast this week (that I was listening to on my iphone) say this device is designed by the smartest minds on the planet for the purpose of getting us to buy more stuff. Not only that, they’re consciously trying to affect who we are internally to get their desired result.
And they know how to target their advertising at us with such precision that it feels like they can read our minds, which I’m convinced they can already do. (I know, I’m the crazy one.) So, not only are we choosing to subject ourselves to areas 1 and 2, but by being in those areas we are receiving massive doses of area three.
4.) There are more causes than ever.
Every day it seems like there’s a new cause. Whether it’s about people or animals or food, or about the environment, pharmaceuticals, health and nutrition, the homeless, the hungry, human trafficking, mental health, kids, foster kids, adoption. I’m pretty sure the list is endless.
And they’re not bad things. For the most part, I think the intention is good. But, we’re constantly being accosted with appeals to help, donate, participate and proselytize for all these causes we believe in, others believe in, etc.
What’s the end result?
We find ourselves in the midst of the busiest generation of people to have ever existed. This level of busyness has never existed, as far we know in human history. I don’t even think those four areas are all the areas that have greatly affected our lives, but they’re the big ones. But, we have found ourselves so drawn to all these options, that we have lulled ourselves into a drone-like state simply going through the motions trying to keep up with everything we feel compelled to do.
We’re too busy for everything.
What do we do about it?
Over the last 3-4 years I have been learning about fruit trees. I’ve been studying things like grafting and pruning and practicing them for the past few years. This year, with the cooperation of the weather, we enjoyed some of the best fruit so far. But, it comes at a cost.
It doesn’t come about by accident, just letting the tree grow and produce branch after branch. If you’ve ever seen old fruit trees, you see the difference. The fruit is small, like the fruit you buy in the store. The branches might be loaded, like this year, but it’s not good fruit. Of course the reason the fruit in the store is small, though for different reasons has everything to do with our current culture too.
But, you don’t get good fruit without pruning. You get small fruit in a good growing season. You get tiny, if any fruit, in a bad growing season.
Pruning seems counterintuitive. You have to cut out a lot of water sprouts and suckers. You have to know what to take and what to leave. You have to know what’s a strong crotch and a weak one (It’s a tree thing, not it’s not dirty). You have to cut a lot out of a tree every year to keep it producing good fruit. And when you let it go for a few years, it takes several years to get it back. But, you have to cut out a lot of living material. Every year I get more aggressive, and every year, I feel like I could have cut more out.
Right now, the way things are in our society, we are compelled to be unpruned trees. Not only that, but to graft branches into our tree that we never desired to be a part of our lives in the first place. To a point where now, our tree is overloaded with water sprouts and suckers – literally sucking the life out of us. And it takes everything we have to just keep it all going. The idea of fruit is far from our minds as we are consumed with keeping up.
We don’t even realize it. What’s worse is, we don’t even realize how detrimental it can be. A few seasons ago, after years of not being pruned, a prune tree was loaded with prunes. But, because it hadn’t been pruned, the weight of the fruit was too much for the tree and it split down the middle. Not only are we unable to keep up with the demands of this lifestyle, but truthfully, one of the worst things that could happen to us would be if all these areas started producing fruit. We would find ourselves split down the middle.
It’s Time To Prune Back
We can’t do it all. We wish we could, I wish I could. I heard this from Michael Hyatt, “I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.” The possibilities are limitless, but I am limited.
Where do we start?
For Christians, it’s really simple. Not easy, but simple. God first, Others second, I’m third. If we don’t get our lives in God’s order for our lives, things get out of balance really quickly. Even if we start with others, that can run us into the ground. If we aren’t rooted and established in God’s love, we won’t be able to withstand the storms let alone the trials and challenges of bearing fruit.
Many of us have started with ourselves, and our personal desires. Instead of starting with God and letting him grow desires in us, we graft our own desires into our trees and ask God to bless them. We then get mad at God when they don’t produce fruit, or we get mad when they do produce fruit but it’s too much for us to handle. Like Jesus says, we’ve let the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke out the tree.
The only starting place is God. Building everything on Him. Letting him establish our priorities. Putting our relationship with him first in every single area of our lives. And letting him not only grow us up in Himself, but letting him prune out what doesn’t need to be there.
Some of us may have a lot that God needs to prune out, and it’s going to be painful. Others among us, maybe have a lot of ivy growing around and up the tree, choking us. And it’s rooted in well. It’s going to have to go so we can breath again.
None of this will happen by accident. It will all only happen with intentionality. Not only that, but we will have to remain intentional as the world around us continues to increase its demands for our time and attention.
But, in the end, it comes down to this. Do you want God to produce fruit in your life? Or do you want to stay too busy for everything?