Even though I've fallen into the trap of using this response, I'm trying to avoid it these days. For one, it tells the person nothing about the state of your spirit, but is hidden in activity and how much you do in a day. What does that really mean? And who isn't busy? Really. Isn't everyone? Asking someone how they are and replying with a "busy" seems to be the equivalent of saying "I'm a typical American."
In a recent article of Christianity Today, Alissa Wilkinson reviews Kevin DeYoung's most recent book, Crazy Busy:A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem. Wilkinson references an article she read from The New York Times in which Tim Kreider makes the observation that "most people who reply this way aren't working three shifts to make ends meet. They're people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they've taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they've 'encouraged' their kids to participate in. They're busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they're addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence."
And yet, many people act as if their busyness is a disease they just can't cure. When we realize the condition is self-imposed, it's hard not to step back and ask, "well... why?" Why am I choosing chaos over calm? Why I am choosing all these accomplishments over time with the people I love?
DeYoung encourages us to keep seeking what's of lasting value, and relationships always trump tasks. But still, these relationships can't just be squeezed into a hectic schedule. "Effective love is rarely efficient. People take time. Relationships are messy."
I speak to myself here: being a task-driven, type-A, achievement-oriented, dream-reaching, analytical list maker, I know my natural tendency to reach for the accomplishment over the date time with husband or friend. I could say it's about personality, efficiency, and practicality, but if I'm really honest with myself and getting a little personal with you too, it's about pride and fear.
I have dreams, yes. But my striving often swirls in this belief that I will be "less-than"--some type of failure--if I don't achieve all I set out to do. I don't want people to view me as a failure. I don't want to be "mediocre." And here comes another false belief: mediocrity surrounds achievements only, not relationships. I can rise to the top, hit a best seller-list (at this point, yes, all in my dreams), and secure financial independence, but if I've neglected the people around me, what have I really achieved?
Busyness doesn't equal better kids either. They just become stressed and hectic like us, unable to distinguish identity from how many activities they are involved in.
And where does our time with God come into this busyness? He's a Great Big God, who will not be squeezed and manipulated (truly, aren't we grateful for that?) into our 30-second windows of prayer. Which for me often looks like, "Here, God, here's your part of the list I'm not going to be able to get to. Got that? Thanks!"
Just as with any relationship, growth requires time. So, I'd encourage you to take some time to assess: are you busy with the important, truly lasting stuff. Or...is it just.... well, stuff?