Constant busyness is dangerous for our souls. In this short, honest, and often humorous book, DeYoung rejects the “busyness as usual” mindset, helping us to make time for the things that really matter.
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About the Author
Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, and assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He serves as board chairman of the Gospel Coalition and blogs at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed. He is the author of several books, including Just Do Something; Crazy Busy; and The Biggest Story. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have eight children.
Read an Excerpt
Hello, My Name Is Busy
I am the worst possible person to write this book.
And maybe the best.
My life is crazy busy. I don't say that as a boast or a brag. I'm not trying to win any contest. I'm just stating the facts. Or at least describing the way my life feels almost every single day. I often made the quip, "I'm supposed to write a book on busyness, if only I could find the time." And I wasn't joking.
How did I get this way? How did you get this way? How did we all get this way? I've yet to meet anyone in America who responds to the question "How are you?" with the reply, "Well for starters, I'm not very busy." I suppose there must be a six-year-old somewhere out there who doesn't "have anything to do" and some dear folks at the nursing home who could use a few more interruptions, but for almost everyone in between there is a pervasive sense of being unrelentingly filled up and stressed out.
I do not write this book as one who has reached the summit and now bends over to throw the rope down to everyone else. More like the guy with a toehold three feet off the ground, looking for my next grip. I'm writing this book not because I know more than others but because I want to know more than I do. I want to know why life feels the way it does, why our world is the way it is, why I am the way I am. And I want to change.
Same Kind of Busy as You
As long as I can remember — which takes us back aeons and aeons, all the way to the 90s — I have been busy. In high school I ran track and cross-country, played intramural basketball, did National Honor Society, tried the Spanish club, took multiple AP courses, played in our insanely time-consuming marching band, sang in a musical, and did church twice on Sunday, Sunday school, youth group, and a Friday morning Bible study. No one made me like this. My parents didn't force me (though church was not up for discussion). I wanted to do all these things.
In college I did even more. I ran a season of track, played intramural sports, worked part-time for various professors, organized one of the country's largest Model UN programs (yes, it's true), signed up to be a DJ at the campus radio station, led our Fellowship of Christian Students group, went to voluntary chapel three times a week, sang in a church choir, sang in the college chapel choir, participated in my church's college ministry, helped with Boys' Brigade on Wednesday nights, went to church on Sunday morning, then Sunday school, then evening church, then chapel back on campus late into the night.
Same story in seminary. In addition to normal course work and wading through my denomination's labyrinthine ordination process, I interned at my church, preached regularly, sang in up to three different choirs at the same time, went to an accountability group every week, did the usual with church twice on Sunday, plus Sunday school, plus a midweek catechism class I taught for little kids, plus leading the seminary's missions committee and attending chapels and frequent prayer meetings. I could go on and on.
And this is before I was really busy. The only people busier than single grad students are people who aren't single and aren't grad students. All those years in school, except for one semester, I wasn't married. I wasn't in fulltime pastoral ministry. I wasn't blogging or writing books. I wasn't leading elders' meetings. I wasn't speaking anywhere. I wasn't a slave to technology. I didn't have a mortgage to figure out or a lawn to mow or a furnace to fix or a dead raccoon in my fireplace (long story) or weekly sermons to prepare. I didn't have to travel. I didn't have Facebook or Twitter. Hardly anyone e-mailed me. And I wasn't parenting a child, let alone five.
On most days, my responsibilities, requirements, and ambitions add up to much more than I can handle. It has since I was a teenager, and only seems to be getting worse. When someone asks me how I'm doing, my response almost always includes the word "busy." I can think of several moments in just the past couple of months when I've muttered to myself, "What am I doing? How did I get myself into this mess? When will I ever get my life under control? How long can I keep this up? Why can't I manage my time? Why did I say yes to this? How did I get so busy?" I've bemoaned my poor planning and poor decision making. I've complained about my schedule. I've put in slipshod work because there wasn't time for any other kind. I've missed too many quiet times and been too impatient with my kids. I've taken my wife for granted and fed important relationships with leftovers. I've been too busy to pursue God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In other words, I've likely been just like you.
An Idea Whose Time Was Overdue
"So, Kevin, what's your next book project?" my friends would ask.
"I'm doing a book on busyness."
"Really?! But your schedule is a mess. This is one of your biggest problems."
"I know. That's why I'm writing the book."
Some books are written because the author knows something people need to know. Others because the author has seen something people should see. I'm writing this book to figure out things I don't know and to work on change I have not yet seen. More than any other book I've worked on, this one is for me.
Which also means the book will have more about me than usual. I don't know any other way to write on a topic that has been such a personal struggle except to make this book very personal. There is nothing remarkable about my experiences such that they need to be shared. It just so happens they are the experiences I know best. So you're going to get a candid look at some of my faults, some of my struggles, and some of the insights — commonsense and biblical — that have helped me make sense of my heart issues.
I have two hesitations in writing a book like this, and both stem from pride. On the one hand, I'm going to put aside the urge to constantly qualify my struggles with reassurances that things aren't quite so bad as they sound. In one sense, that's true. I have a happy marriage and love being a dad. I'm not burnt out. I'm not fifty pounds overweight. I sleep at night. I have friends. There are people in my life to keep me accountable. This book is not a cry for help.
Except that it is. I want to grow in this area. I don't want to keep up this same pace for the rest of my life. Frankly, I probably can't. My life may not be spinning out of control, but it's probably spinning too fast and a bit wobbly.
My second hesitation is just the opposite. I worry that you'll think I'm parading my busyness as a badge of honor. If you don't think I'm messed up for having these issues in the first place, you might think I'm proud for talking about them at all. "Must be nice to speak at conferences, Rev Kev. Must be pretty sweet to have people asking you to write books. Nice name drop, Pastor — wish those guys were knocking down my door. Thanks for sharing all your terrible burdens with us."
I understand the sentiment. When some people talk about busyness it sounds like the lantern-jawed zillionaire quarterback complaining about all the photo shoots he has lined up. I really hope I don't sound like That Guy — the one who expects sympathy every time he tells his sob story about how much worse the Milan airport is compared to Prague. As far as I can discern my heart, I'm not proud to be busy and I'm not proud of the things that make me busy. To be sure, pride is connected in other ways, but not in the sharing of the struggles themselves.
Besides, when it comes down to it, we are all busy in the same sorts of ways. Whether you are a pastor, a parent, or a pediatrician, you likely struggle with the crushing weight of work, family, exercise, bills, church, school, friends, and a barrage of requests, demands, and desires. No doubt, some people are quantitatively less busy than others and some much more so, but that doesn't change the shared experience: most everyone I know feels frazzled and overwhelmed most of the time.
That's what the people in my church are like. That's what my friends around the country are like. That's what I am like. And that's why I'm writing this book.
I read an anecdote once about a woman from another culture who came to the United States and began to introduce herself as "Busy." It was, after all, the first thing she heard when meeting any American. Hello, I'm Busy — she figured it was part of our traditional greeting, so she told everyone she met that that's who she was.
It's what most of us are, and what more of us are becoming. No matter where we live or what our background. Granted, there are important differences in how people understand time. I'm well aware that this book assumes a modernized, industrialized cultural context. I know it assumes a Western view of time, and that an African book on busyness might include different prescriptions and contain many insights I've missed. To that end, I trust you will distinguish in these pages between practical application (which may differ across cultures) and biblical principles and diagnoses (which do not). Efficiency and punctuality, for example, can demonstrate respect for others, but they are not absolute virtues. Just ask the man on the Jericho Road.
But we all live somewhere and must swim in the water around us. I can't help but deal with the realities of life as I experience them in the United States. While it may limit the effectiveness of this book in some contexts, it seemed best not to take off my Western lenses, both because I probably couldn't and because the world, for better or worse, will only grow more globalized, urbanized, and busy in the years ahead. Many other cultures are not as obsessed with minutes and seconds as we are, but for most of us, that's the world we inhabit. For the rest, it's the world that's coming.
Paint by Numbers
I hope you'll find this book highly practical and accessibly theological. That's the book I set out to write because that's the book I'd want to read. In these pages, I don't plumb the depths of union with Christ, eschatological foreshadowing, and the interpretive history of the fourth commandment. That's not the kind of book you're reading. At the same time, I'm not interested merely in giving time management techniques or tips on how to set your e-mail filter. I want to understand what's going on in the world and in my heart to make me feel the way I do. And I also want to understand how to change — even just a little. Both tasks require theology. And both are begging for practicality.
The outline of this book is straightforward. If you want a poem or a chalk drawing about busyness, you won't find it here. But if you prefer a clear outline with lists, I'm your man. My outline is as simple as three numbers: 3, 7, and 1: three dangers to avoid (chapter 2), seven diagnoses to consider (chapters 3–9), and one thing you must do (chapter 10). I don't promise total transformation. I offer no money-back guarantees. My goal is more modest. I hope you'll find a few ways to tackle your schedule, several suggestions for reclaiming your sanity, and a lot of encouragement to remember your soul.
All of which is to say, I hope you find in reading this book exactly what I'm looking for in writing it.CHAPTER 2
Here, There, and Gone: Three Dangers to Avoid
It's not the most famous story in the Bible, but it is one of the strangest. At the end of 1 Kings 20 we meet a man who comes up with an unusual plan for rebuking Israel's king. God's people were at war with Syria, and God was granting them military success. But Ahab was a wicked, petulant, cowardly king. Just when God gave the Syrian king, Ben-hadad, into his hands, Ahab agreed to let him go for a few bazaars in Damascus. The gesture may sound magnanimous to us, but Ahab's selfish little bargain put all of Israel in danger and dishonored the Lord.
So a certain man of the sons of the prophets devised a plan. He would go to the king dressed like a servant returning from battle. The first step was to look the part, so the unnamed prophet ordered a fellow prophet, at the command of the Lord, to strike him. Somewhat understandably, this second fellow did not oblige, which led to his untimely death at the hands of a lion (I told you it was a strange story). So the prophet found another man and also implored him, "Strike me, please." This time the man struck and wounded him.
Now the prophet was ready to go the king. Fresh with these self-inflicted bruises, the man disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes and told the king a story: "I've just come from the battle," he said, "and I need to tell you something. A soldier brought me a man and ordered me to guard him with my life. Well, one thing led to another, and I must have got distracted with something else and, um, the man got away."
Of course, the king was furious: "Just as you said: this negligence will cost you your life." Then the prophet removed the bandage, revealed his true identity, and rebuked the king for letting Ben-hadad go free when God wanted him dead. Not a smart move. Disobedience would cost Ahab his life, just as he ironically said it should.
My point in recounting this obscure incident is not to encourage you to punch each other in the face. I mention this story so we can underline what the prophet-turned-pretend-guard says to the king in explaining how his man got away: "And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone" (1 Kings 20:40). I realize 1 Kings 20 is not trying to tackle the problem of busyness, but the line in verse 40 strikes me as a perfect description for our age. We are here and there and everywhere. We are distracted. We are preoccupied. We can't focus on the task in front of us. We don't follow through. We don't keep our commitments. We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don't even notice the most important things slipping away.
Confession Is Good for the Soul
You and I have a problem. Most mornings, we drag ourselves out of bed, start the day's routine, and hope against hope that we can simply hold our ground. Maybe we can keep the house in only a mild state of disaster. Maybe we can break even on the to-do list. Maybe no one else will get sick. Maybe the in-box won't get any fuller. Maybe we won't fall asleep after lunch. Maybe, just maybe, we can get enough done in the next eighteen hours to beat back the beast of busyness and live to see another day. We wake up most days not trying to serve, just trying to survive.
In his book The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness, Tim Chester suggests twelve diagnostic questions to determine how ill we've become with "hurry sickness." I can imagine how we'd answer each question in our church small groups. And then I can imagine how we'd really respond:
1. "Do you regularly work thirty minutes a day longer than your contracted hours?"
What does that have to do with anything? I have a lot to do, so I have to work a lot of hours.
2. "Do you check work e-mails and phone messages at home?"
Are you serious? Have you been around much this millennium?
3. "Has anyone ever said to you, 'I didn't want to trouble you because I know how busy you are'?"
Of course! And I'm glad they have the decency to respect my time!
4. "Do your family or friends complain about not getting time with you?"
Well, I wouldn't call it complaining per se. They're still learning that quality time is more important than quantity time.
5. "If tomorrow evening were unexpectedly freed up, would you use it to do work or a household chore?"
Uh, yeah. Were you going to do it for me?
6. "Do you often feel tired during the day or do you find your neck and shoulders aching?"
Mountain Dew, ibuprofen, not a problem.
7. "Do you often exceed the speed limit while driving?"
Depends on whether I'm trying to eat French fries at the same time.
8. "Do you make use of any flexible working arrangements offered by your employers?"
Definitely. I work at home. I work in the car. I work on vacation. I can work pretty much anywhere.
9. "Do you pray with your children regularly?"
I never turn them down when they ask.
10. "Do you have enough time to pray?"
I'm more a "pray continually" kind of person. I don't need to set aside specific times to pray because I'm always in communion with God.
11. "Do you have a hobby in which you are actively involved?"
Does Pinterest count?
12. "Do you eat together as a family or household at least once a day?"
More or less. When one person is eating, someone else is usually in the house at the same time.
On a normal day, my life feels like something between a perpetual summer camp and a three-ring circus. You probably feel the same. Think about the average workweek in this country. It wasn't that long ago we had futurists predicting that one of the main challenges for coming generations would be too much spare time. In 1967, for example, testimony before a Senate subcommittee claimed that by 1985 the average workweek would be just twenty-two hours. Instead, Americans lead the industrialized world in annual work hours. Our annual hours have increased from 1,716 for the average worker in 1967 to 1,878 hours in the year 2000. British workers put in an extra hour every day compared to the Germans and the Italians, but that's still almost an hour less than Americans. If you want a little easier load (and a lot of oil-generated wealth), consider Norway. Workers there put in an average of 14 weeks fewer per year than their American counterparts.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Crazy Busy"
Copyright © 2013 Kevin DeYoung.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Hello, My Name Is Busy,
2 Here, There, and Gone: Three Dangers to Avoid,
3 The Killer P's — Diagnosis #1: You Are Beset with Many Manifestations of Pride,
4 The Terror of Total Obligation — Diagnosis #2: You Are Trying to Do What God Does Not Expect You to Do,
5 Mission Creep — Diagnosis #3: You Can't Serve Others without Setting Priorities,
6 A Cruel Kindergarchy — Diagnosis #4: You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids,
7 Deep Calls to Deep — Diagnosis #5: You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul,
8 Rhythm and Blues — Diagnosis #6: You'd Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself,
9 Embracing the Burdens of Busyness — Diagnosis #7: You Suffer More because You Don't Expect to Suffer at All,
10 The One Thing You Must Do,
What People are Saying About This
“Everything Kevin DeYoung writes is biblical, timely, and helpful for both life and ministry. You can’t afford to miss what he says here in Crazy Busy. He rightly reminds us to beware of the barrenness of a busy life, since activity and productivity are not the same thing.”
Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California
“I’m a fan of Kevin DeYoung’s writing, partly because I know what to expect. He’s always clear, biblical, and to the pointwith a good dose of humor peppered in. Crazy Busy is no exception. It’s a quick and engaging read that busy people can find time for. DeYoung helped me think about the heart issues behind my busyness, and even gave me some practical ways to fight it. As a pretty busy guy, I encourage other busy folks to squeeze this little book into their schedule.”
Trip Lee, hip-hop artist; author, The Good Life; Pastor, Cornerstone Church, Atlanta
“DeYoung is a smart guy, and he offers a refreshing (and refreshingly short) take on the plague of modern American life: the too-long to-do list and the overscheduled calendar that produce the frazzled response ‘busy’ to the innocent question ‘How are you?’ DeYoung doesn’t offer time management but rather theology. God wants you to use your talents, but God is not nearly as big on the idolatry of self-importance that often motivates overcommitment. Some of this could well have been said in a sermon, which would have been even shorter. But DeYoung is clever (‘If Jesus were alive today, he’d get more emails than any of us.’), his analysis is well-organized, and he brings theological thinking without moralizing. If you are someone who checks your email before going to bed and as soon as you wake up, DeYoung has your number, and this is your book.” (September 30, 2013)
Publisher's WeeklyPublisher's Weekly
“DeYoung shows how trusting in God’s providence helps us work hard without going crazy.”
World MagazineWorld Magazine
"Informal and friendly, [Crazy Busy] prompts readers to take a long, unsparing look at the things they say and do." (September, 2013)
Christianity TodayChristianity Today
“A great book for the stressed-out. DeYoung shows that Jesus was busy and Christians should be busy discipling nations, parenting children, and bearing burdens. He rightly differentiates that from ‘crazy busy,’ a frenzied trying to please some and control othersand he shows how biblical rhythms and trust in God’s providence can keep us sane. Also a great book for parents who live in a Kindergarchy, over-programming their children: DeYoung says let them play, because it’s not easy either to ruin them or to assure their success.”
Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, WORLD Magazine
“Habitual, sinful busyness is something that many struggle with and yet, it’s rare to hear teaching on this important topic. With refreshing transparency and his trademark humor, Kevin DeYoung identifies the problem and gives helpful practical instruction on how to find our rest in Christ. DeYoung has served the church well (once again). I highly recommend this book.”
Shai Linne, hip-hop artist
“I’m glad to take time out of my busy life to endorse Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. As Kevin makes abundantly clear, our busyness can be evidence of our faithfulness or, on the other hand, evidence of our pride, ambition, and unbridled activity. As always, Kevin DeYoung is a careful thinker, a gifted pastor, and a writer who keeps the reader on the edge of our seat.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Kevin DeYoung goes after our busyness with all the best of Reformed theology: we don’t need to manage our busyness better, we have a busy heart, seeking approval from others. The problem isn’t too much to do, but a heart out of tune with God’s calling, forgetting its limitations, seduced by the siren calls of ‘the perfect family’ or ‘the successful career.’ In a world where speed and accomplishment is everything, DeYoung calls us to return to the rhythms of a Sabbath rest.”
Paul E. Miller, author, A Praying Life and J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life
“Busy, hectic lives are the bane of the modern world. This book is not profound; rather it simply offers a lot of that most unfashionable commoditycommon sense. DeYoung exposes the nature of busyness, the various ways in which it deludes us, and offers some basic advice on what to do about it. A fine, short book which deserves a wide readership.”
Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Grove City College
“If you are like me and think you are too busy to read this book, trust me, you are too busy not to. As a mom of two little ones at home, I find my days are long, busy, and exhausting. However, after reading Crazy Busy, perspectives, priorities, and order were put back in place. This has been one of the most helpful books I have read to date. Whether you are a mom of two or a CEO of 200, this book will point you to the one and only thing your soul truly needs . . . Christ.”
Ali Deckard, stay-at-home mom
“If you’re like me, you’ll see yourself in the mirror of DeYoung’s experience and will be prompted to make changes based on the biblical diagnosis we find in these pages. Trust me. You’re too busy not to read this book.”
Trevin Wax, author, This Is Our Time