The emblem of the modern age is fast-paced, time-crunched, task-filled living. We are either busy, or trying to give the impression we are, because if we’re not busy, we must not be productive or important.
Yet many, if not most, of us in our busy-ness struggle with a sense that there is never enough time to do what needs to be done, that something is always bearing down on us, that there must be more to living than scrambling around to finish all the competing demands on us.
In his book “Making All Things New,” the late Dutch-born Catholic priest and prolific writer Henri J.M. Nouwen identified this “gnawing sense of being unfulfilled (that) underlies our filled lives.”
“The great paradox of our time,” writes Nouwen, “is that many of us are busy and bored at the same time. While running from one event to the next, we wonder in our innermost selves if anything is really happening. While we can hardly keep up with our many tasks and obligations, we are not so sure that it would make any difference if we did nothing at all. While people keep pushing us in all directions, we doubt if anyone really cares. In short, while our lives are full, we feel unfulfilled.”
But most of us keep at it. “The past no longer carries us to the future; it simply leaves us worried, without any promise that things will be different.”
This, Nouwen contends, was the worry – the constant anxiousness – that Jesus warned us against as spiritually debilitating. We are, as Noewen puts it, “all over the place yet never at home.”
Jesus calls us from that state.
“He wants to bring us to the place where we belong. But his call to live a spiritual life can only be heard when we are willing to honestly confess our own homeless and worrying existence and recognize its fragmenting effect on our daily life. Only then can a desire for our true home develop. It is of this desire that Jesus speaks when he says, ‘Do not worry … Set your hearts on his kingdom first … and all these other things will be given you as well.”
We tend not to believe that. It sounds too simple. But where has our busy complexity gotten us?