(As I’ve mentioned before in these blogs, secularism is not necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, fail to provide the social support for belief that was present in earlier ages.)
Of all these obstacles – and there are undoubtedly many more I haven’t included – busyness is perhaps the most pernicious in its subtlety. In our culture, busyness may seem inevitable, even normal. However, it impedes the search for God on at least two levels: it leaves us with little time to pursue belief, and it robs us of the calm and thoughtfulness necessary to do so.
Why Are You Afraid?
James Martin, S.J., in his book, “Jesus, A Pilgrimage,” uses the gospel story of the calming of the storm to illustrate the problem. As you may recall the story, Jesus and his disciples embark on a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a violent storm erupts and the disciples fear for their lives.
According to the gospel of Mark, Jesus “was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
Jesus calms the sea and asks his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Then, besides counseling against fear, Martin writes, Jesus offers what is desperately needed today: calm.
“The more I listen to people,” writes Martin, a long-time spiritual counselor, “the more I hear them speak about their lives using the same words: overworked, overbooked, overwhelmed, stressed-out, crazy-busy, nuts, insane.
‘I have no time for my family. I have no time to pray. I barely have time to think.’” One of the problems, he writes, is that “… our culture has impressed upon us the equation that the busier you are, the more important you are.”
There are practical ways of handling busyness, of course, and the most obvious is doing an activity inventory followed by a culling of schedules. What is really necessary or helpful for my life? What is most important? (It’s obvious that when we say we “have no time” for God and religion, it actually means that it’s not important for us. If that’s the case, we should admit that to ourselves.) If an activity isn’t necessary or important, shouldn’t we consider not doing it?
We may do a lot of things out of a sense of obligation, responding to requests by bosses, colleagues, family members and friends. But do you have to make these people happy at the expense of your calm? I don’t think so.
Apart from the practical, there are “spiritual” implications to busyness.
A popular American magazine had a recent article on finding your calm, and quoted a successful businesswoman.
“When I wake up,” she said, “I don’t look first at my smart phone. Instead, I take a minute to breathe deeply, be grateful and set my intention for the day.”
More Is Needed
Good idea to give yourself enough time in a busy day to be thoughtful, but for people searching for God, something more is needed, in my opinion, and that’s prayer.
We’ve covered this subject several times in these blogs, and I understand that people who are searching for God may have grave doubts about God’s existence, let alone whether God is interested in us or our prayers. So what’s new? Don’t you ever speak to your spouse, boss, employee, friend or kids when you doubt that they’re interested or listening?
Last year, I was doing what many husbands do a lot: waiting for my wife while she shops. I was sitting in what I call a “husband chair” in the dress section of an upscale department store in another city watching a young clerk greeting and helping customers. It was shortly after the store’s opening in the morning and I was thinking about how hard it must be to be for a clerk to smile, greet people and accommodate them when you may not have had enough sleep, have a bit of a hangover or are just not in the mood.
I noticed that this particular clerk was helpful and pleasant without being pushy. When she was free, I asked her how she does it.
The answer, in short, was that she does it just by doing it. Although she may feel “bummed” at the start of her shift, after a short time actually dealing with people, it usually came naturally. She liked people, she said, and after exchanges with them, she was usually eager to help.
Just Do It
That “Just Do It” idea, made famous by Nike, works in the pursuit of faith as well. Have doubts? Express them to God. Feel ridiculous? Some of the most important things we do in life, like falling in love with the most unlikely person, are ridiculous. Feel that you’re being anti-intellectual or anti-science? How much of your daily life – including your interactions with loved ones – are based on intellectualism or science?
Faith is a relationship, with God and others, and you have to pursue and nourish relationships.
Busyness, and lack of calm, is an obstacle in the search for God, but the pursuit itself brings calm, and all its other rewards make the pursuit worth it.