Just a few short months ago, I was beaming.
I had a new job.
I signed up for a full-time class load.
My schedule was filling up just like I wanted it to.
My life was becoming a story of busyness and I could not have been more excited about it. Busyness is how I function. If I don’t have something to do, a meeting to attend, a list to check off, or a person to talk to, I might self implode. But today, when the list didn’t get checked off, the demands never seem to end, and the homework on my desk is beginning to resemble Mt. Everest (this could possibly be a slight dramatization) , I am afraid that the bliss of busyness has worn off and I am keenly aware of my inability to balance everything that I have willingly placed in my life. But what I am most fearful of, is that the busyness is masking a greater issue rooted deep in my heart; one that cannot be hidden by my constant striving to please and provide.
My busyness is masking my pride.
I think most of us can admit that though we live in the wake busyness, it is possible to flourish in it. With discipline, time management, and scheduled rest, the balance of busyness seems attainable. But sadly, I get into a rhythm of believing that all of the things in my life must or can only be done by me–no one else–that somehow, my personal time with the Lord could never compare to this amazing opportunity at work, or this guy, or to that to-do list that must get done–you fill in the blank.
I sink into the lie that draws me in, telling me that there is no one else who can do my job as well as me. There is no one else who can disciple her like me. There is no one else who can serve like me. There is no one else who can lead like me. They need my voice, my talents, my skills, my time–which is the dangerous territory where it all seems to unravel.
And honestly, this is where the Lord has brought me today– on my knees, asking for forgiveness for this deep rooted issue of pride that I can’t seem to shake. So I go to the Word:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6
When I read this verse, there is something so striking about the phrase”filthy rags”; that truly all the work I am striving to do in my own strength only can amount to rags that are to be thrown away with the trash–useless. No one is concerned with these rags. No one is praising the rags. No one wants to asks the rags for more help.
They are done. Dead. Meaningless.
My constant striving to be known, to be praised, to be seen, to be loved, to be wanted is all manifesting itself in my busyness because in these acts, I am (1) working to bring glory to myself, and not to the Father, and (2) to be satisfied in man’s praises rather than God himself.
But quite possibly, the most intense part of this verse is the fact that it is telling us that this kind of life–a life in pursuit of self-righteousness and pride–cultivates sinful rhythms in our hearts that will surely “sweep us away”. We are easily swept away in the winds of anxiety, self-praise, depression, fear of man, and loneliness, when our foundation is not set on Christ’s glory, but yet our own.
All of my busyness and hard work will never amount to anything if all I am doing is striving to be great, rather than to show how great the Creator is. I’m so weary, trying to show that I can do all things through ME who gives me strength, that I am not allowing people to see how God can actually use my petty works, the unchecked off lists, the dirty dishes, the late assignments, the missed meetings, the unread emails, to show that He is all sufficient, all redemptive, and that He is the one who can take my filthy rags and wash them white as snow–that Christ took the dirt and mess of the World and He created something beautiful and new. And in scripture, we see that He is not done with us:
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14
Today, despite my failures, He is working. He is waiting for me to give up my righteous works, and to look to Him, the One who knows what true righteousness is. He is waiting for me to come to Him first, before I open my inbox. He is waiting for me to teach the gospel to myself, before I run to teach it to others. He is waiting for me to speak first of the goodness He has done, rather than the meaningless tasks I have completed. He’s waiting for me to understand that rest is found in Him, not closing the laptop at night. And He is longing for me to walk beside Him in the midst of life’s busyness.
We can’t change the season we are in. Whether you are a mother, a teacher, a cooperate America worker, a student, or you are in full time ministry, you will be busy–there is no changing that. We are going to fail, but the beauty of being in Christ, is that our identity is no longer found in our failure–it is found in the redemptive work of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The more we grow to know Him, the more fruit we bear, the more we are strengthened in our weakness, the more we grow to thank Him in all things with joy. He takes us out of eternal darkness, out of our striving to prove that we can do it, and rather, uses us for His glory, even in the midst of our brokenness. He wants to make beauty out of our filthy rags, but the question is, are we willing to let Him?