I rushed to a conference last week. I was leading a workshop the next day and didn’t want to be that guy: the guy who only shows up for his workshop but skips everything else. Truthfully, though, I didn’t have the time. I wished I could have skipped the evening and stayed at home.
But I was there and started to listen. It turns out that I needed to hear what the main speaker, Karen Reed, had to say.
Reed spoke about her ministry in East Vancouver. She spoke about living faithfully in a community, being a good neighbor, and practicing “subversive acts of generous hospitality.” Her speaker bio says, “For the first time in her life, she lives slow and rooted, living 90% of her life within a 30 minute walk of her house and has given up her car for a bike.”
As she talked, I felt myself remembering that I longed for this type of community in my neighborhood. It’s why I moved to Liberty Village in the first place: to plant a church here, but also to learn the art of neighboring, as one book puts it.
I started intrigued. I moved from intrigued to convicted when she said six words: “You can’t be present and busy.”
I didn’t take many notes that night. I scribbled down two other sentences: “Neighbors don’t need experts,” and “How can we make our homes more public?” I loved the stories she told of house parties, sitting on her porch and greeting people, and leaving her door unlocked. I even appreciated hearing about her struggles: neighbors who are hard to love, and about her own struggles to slow down and learn a new pattern of life.
But mostly I’ve been thinking about that one sentence. As I run from meeting to meeting, battling my growing to-do list, and falling further behind, I wonder: what is my busyness costing not only me but the people around me? What evidences of God’s work am I too busy to notice? How is busyness robbing me of presence in the community where God has placed me?
I want to believe what I heard Rosaria Butterfield say on a podcast once: that being present for one neighbor is better than speaking at a conference of ten thousand people.
I don’t have all the answers yet. I know that the answers will also come at a price, and if I’m honest I’m not sure I want to pay it. For some twisted reason It will be easier for me to live frantically and joylessly rather than slow down and build time to be present. It probably won’t help my reputation or feed my ego. And it will involve withstanding the cultural pressure to rush even when there’s no reason.
But this statement won’t let me go. I have a feeling it will be rattling around in my brain for some time to come.
As Trevin Wax wrote, “We are too busy to be on mission for Jesus because we are on mission for ourselves .. See, living on mission takes time.”
You can’t be present and busy. Or: it’s hard to be on mission and busy.