busy vs. full

fewer comments can irritate me more quickly than “i know you’re busy.” to me, “busy,” implies frenetic. it speaks of stuffing in, past capacity, as much as possible. it infers mindlessness and racing and a certain rushing from thing to thing. 
i know this kind of living.
sadly, at times, my schedule reflects all of these traits and i bounce, somewhat like a ping pong ball, from one task to the next. there have been long periods of time in my life where this kind of bouncing was the norm. not wanting to miss an opportunity for a new experience or disappoint someone who might want or need me, i would pack my calendar until the day’s seams burst and responsibilities leaked from one 24 hour period into the next as an overstuffed pillow leaks batting from its stitches.
during these periods, being busy offered me the opportunity to look important and feel the same. with no time to stop, reflect, or be quiet, i never faced into, let alone confronted, the unhealthy motivations behind my frantic pace. my busy schedule fed on itself and begat more busy-ness and less thoughtfulness about how i invested my minutes. the more time i busied away the less time and energy i left for being intentional about the way i lived. days sped into weeks into months into years in a busy blur of doing.
at this point in my life, however, i chose to have a full life rather than a busy one. the distinction may seem minor but it is important to me at my core. for me fullness has much to do with being. fullness nods toward richness, potential, pregnancy (in a descriptive and not literal way), and order. there is a difference between a busy drawer and a full one and a balloon, while empty of see-able matter, is full.
most of us have heard the object lesson that contains a jar, river rocks, and pebbles. the jar represents the capacity of our available resources, such as our time or energy. the larger river rocks represent the priorities in our lives (important people, valued roles we serve, and values we live out actively such as faith or love) and the pebbles represent the many small tasks that our humanity requires and offers (brushing our teeth, grocery shopping, and watching youtube videos). if you start the task of filling the jar by pouring in the pebbles, you can rarely fit the river rocks in. try the task the other way around and the river rocks and pebbles fit much more smoothly. 
for life to be meaningful we must begin the process of living it by filling our time and spending our energy on the things most important to us first. order, structure, planning and discipline are all required to live a full life. why is this so difficult?
constant distractions (in our pockets, on our desks, on the back of the seat in front of us) offer constant recreation, information, and connection. we are entertained more than any other generation and yet we are bored. we are flooded with information, opportunities, and choices and use these “gifts” to fill up our time rather than help us save some.
at what cost?
fill a balloon with the pebbles from our object lesson and there is no room for it to float. stuff a drawer with as much as it can hold, shove it closed, and hope you can find what you need amongst the eruption that occurs when you next attempt to open it.
this is how we live our busy lives.
living a full life rather than a busy one is no easy task. it is counter cultural and risky and involves the very un-sexy habit of planning. it’s uncomfortable to wait in line without looking at one’s phone, to check voice mail only twice a day, to go several hours without attending to facebook or twitter or cnn. it involves risk to rely on the rhythm of your own soul in determining the look of your calendar, the capacity of your schedule, and the rocks you’ll put in the jar first.
the following questions, when truly considered, might cost us: what would be lost in trading our busy-ness for fullness? to consider which investments of our time and energy are healthy and life giving (for ourselves and the important others in our life) and which are motivated by desires for power, position, image, and attempts to hide? how might it feel to impregnate moments with spaciousness, room for thought and feeling, time for intimate connectedness with ones self? with others? with tasks, hobbies, and pursuits we’re curious about but unfamiliar with? might we accomplish fewer tasks and yet be a healthier self? might we experience less “success” and more “growth?” would we miss the constant news feeds, updates, and information overload if we felt more grounded within our own hearts and minds?
i have to believe that this kind of sturdy, knowing my insides and aligning my outsides accordingly, risky, rich, complex kind of full living is worth it. because what might look like busy to me may be intentional fullness to you and none of us can name that for the other. 


  1. Beautifully stated. Love it. Thank you.

  2. Well said. I think deep down inside of us we all know what our priorities should be, but it can get forgotten when we get into the fast lane of life.

  3. this was so profound for me. i spend so much of my energy on the least important things...i want something different. thank you!