In this period of isolation in which we have found ourselves, one consequence is that many of us have had to try really hard to stay busy. And if Lowe’s and Home Depot are any indication, most have focused their energies on long-delayed home projects, like painting that room or door that has continually been put on the back burner.
Being busy is a means to occupy our minds. Most of the time, this is a positive. Work and accomplishment are good. Being lazy or wasting our time is not. Yet, busyness in our culture has become a badge of validation. A common response we get, or give, when asked, “How are you doing?” is, “I’m so busy.” If I’m busy, then my life has validity, or so we often think and want to project.
In recent days, when I haven’t been busy, I’ve been thinking a lot about the validity of my own life and how I determine that. One thing that has stood out to me is how much I tie attention to being valued. I am not speaking here of the attention needs of a child, where often this saying is applied: “Any attention is better than no attention.” No, I am talking about attention I perceive as being withheld because of anger, hurt, or spite. I hate it, and for a long time I have believed that it is because of my sense of justice and fairness. If somebody is angry with me, then just talk to me. If someone has been hurt by me, then confront me. And if someone is just being spiteful and refusing to talk with me, then perhaps a little growing up is in order.
I believe I am on solid ground on all of these, particularly when they involve fellow believers, but the Lord took me into a deeper realization about this recently. Yes, I am justified, but why is it so important to me? Why would I forfeit a good night’s sleep rolling over in my mind thoughts about this person or that person who has ignored me? Why do I tend to focus on these people rather than those who love me and express their appreciation for me on a regular basis? These were the questions the Spirit brought to mind, and I have been wrestling with them. And then there was one final question presented that gave me the answer: “Is it not enough that I love you?”
For years, I have believed my preoccupation with this was solely a concern for justice and fairness, and, I might add, for the protection of those who I know are not acting in love as the Lord has commanded. But by peeling back another layer, the Lord revealed hidden pride and insecurity. In reality, I have needed their attention for my own validity as a human being. And sometimes I have used confrontation as my tool. Not surprisingly, that has on a number of occasions not had the intended affect. I have long maintained that my willingness to confront unreconciled situations is based on biblical principles of forgiveness, reconciliation, and the unity of believers. Again, I believe these are correct, but the problem is, as I now know, this wasn’t my entire motivation. I wanted their validation more than I, in reality, needed it.
Imagine the freedom that comes from God’s love being enough for us. We are then free to love our enemies and those who think ill of us or misjudge us. We are free to forgive those who have sinned against us and never confess or repent. We are free to serve without anyone’s notice or affirmation. We are free to obey and follow Jesus no matter how other people treat us or what they think of us.
Our need for validation is a human trait, given to us by our Creator. His intent for it was to motivate us to pursue him and keep us free. Our enemy, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to twist this into a shackle. Bondage through seeking the validation of other humans. He even tried this strategy on Jesus. While it failed miserably with him, it has worked marvelously on so many, including, to my surprise, me.
After confessing this yesterday, I slept well and awoke this morning with more freedom, just as the Lord intended. Sometimes, being less busy is exactly what we need to discover new insights about God and ourselves.
© Jim Musser 2020