This Week in Soul Talks

Workaholism and people-pleasing are well-worn paths that inevitably lead to burnout. Jesus offers a different way! Being overly busy steals your peace and joy, and affects those around you. But following Jesus’ way of working brings renewed peace and strength even in the midst of hard things.

Bill & Kristi extend an invitation to live “unbusy” and “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Mt. 11:28-30 MSG) Jesus demonstrated in his life and ministry.

Listen in to this podcast—The Unbusy Person—or, you can read the transcript below.

Resources mentioned in this podcast

The Busy Person Who is a Lazy Person

Kristi: 

Thank you for stewarding your time to value your soul and tune into Soul Talks. We know you are busy people, but we’re thankful that you’re not a busy person who is a lazy person.

Bill: 

Yeah. That’s, that’s your cue for me to share this story. This is actually a journal entry from a pastor on retreat. And he says:

“I am busy because I’m lazy.” (He’s quoting C.S. Lewis here from Mere Christianity.)

This statement hit me right between the eyes. I thought busyness and laziness were polar opposites. After all, some see me as a Type A, driven, and perhaps, borderline workaholic personality. 

How can I possibly be accused of laziness? I’m so busy. 

I don’t know where to turn. I’m so consumed with the needs of others and of the church that I don’t even take time to adequately care for my own spiritual, relational, physical, and emotional needs. 

I feel like a pinball bouncing around out of control because of all the external demands and forces of my environment. God help me, I’m a busy person. 

He goes on to say an amazing concept: that I could gain the driver’s seat of my life; make the decisions, and establish parameters and boundaries. Which will help give sanity to this existence.

I need to understand the work of a pastor in new terms. It is not defined simply as meeting the needs, even the whims, of all the people. What do God and God’s word have to say about today’s priorities and activities? 

I need to set the agenda instead of just working harder and longer. 

I need to work smarter. 

I need to focus on doing that, which is essential for the pastor to do in order to produce fruit. 

I need to delegate some things to others and equip volunteers to take on responsibilities.

I also need to be comfortable with choosing that some things will not get done as well or simply not get done at all. I need to spend more time in prayerful planning, deciding, and directing, establishing values, and setting goals. 

I need to get to the calendar before anyone else, to mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure; for the silence and solitude out of which creative work can issue. 

I need to get in the driver’s seat to plan for the important so that it will not get squeezed out by the urgent. 

So that’s the pastor being vulnerable on retreat and realizing, “Wow, I have let my busy-ness just get a hold of me and I’ve lost my center”. And I can relate to that. I think a lot of you listening can relate to that.

Kristi: 

It’s hard to imagine that there isn’t, that there’s anybody that couldn’t relate to some of that because we all tend to be driven by other things. Things external to us, and letting the urgent things really take us out of what really matters when it comes to the care of our eternal soul.

Bill: 

If you’re like me, you were listening, and it’s work, your projects that are pulling you out into being too busy. Which C.S. Lewis said is a form of laziness because we’re not setting our priorities. 

We’re letting ourselves just be pulled along into the swirl of our email inbox and just get carried along by that. But others of you are more like Kristi, where you are prone to get too busy around helping people or considering what other people need, maybe pleasing people. 

So Kristi, talk to us about that side of it. How do you relate to this busy pastor?

People Pleasing Busyness

Kristi: 

Definitely. I relate because I tend to put other people first and diminish my needs, negate my needs, and not even let myself be aware or awake to the fact that my soul needs something. 

Because I’m too busy, orbiting around everybody else or worrying what they think, what they need from me if I don’t do that. 

And so that gets me to over-command. It makes it hard for me to set boundaries. That’s a temptation for me, it takes a lot of energy for me to set a boundary and to even make a decision. 

“No, I don’t have that to give”, or “I’m not going to give that” and to take the initiative, to do something that’s good for my soul and care for my soul because I have to fight through feeling like “that’s selfish” or “I shouldn’t really need that”. 

All these different lies come through.

Bill: 

So you can get off-center by putting your best energies into other people and what you think they want, or what will help them. 

And then you lose yourself. If you go too far down that path, I mean, it’s a fine line, right? 

Because your gift is your compassion, your mercy, your sensitivity, or kindness, or helpfulness, wonderful ways that you love people. 

But if you go too far down that path, or you are too neglectful of putting priority on your own needs and your own desires, then you get into the “too busy place” where YOU get lost.

Kristi: 

And it’s not just that. 

It’s also things like I want to feel significant or important, or I want control over an area. 

So I’ll take on responsibilities. Those motivations will lead me to take on responsibilities then those responsibilities are taking my time and I’m not being disciplined to set the boundaries that I need. 

And so then maybe I’ll begin to resent those responsibilities because it’s costing me too much. And because of other personal responsibilities and needs that I have, I’m being irresponsible with those needs.

Bill: 

You’re taking on responsibilities of other people or of Soul Shepherding as an organization, at different aspects of work that maybe are sort of beyond what you in your job need to do, but you’re trying to move everything forward. 

You’re taking these things on to the neglect of responsibilities in your life and your home, sometimes. And so that swirl of busyness takes you out of your best life.

Kristi: 

Yes. And even some of the reasons why I’ll do that is because the mission of it or the impact of it is so good.

I want to be involved in that. 

And so sometimes it’s also that I’m caught up in it. It’s such good work or ministry to do. And that can be a reason.

Bill: 

Yes. You just find that the work, the ministry in this case, for us particularly at Soul Shepherding, it’s so compelling, and the Lord, in one sense, appreciates sacrifice. 

Now he did say, he desires mercy more than sacrifice. And so there is the tendency where we make a sacrifice and we get so dutiful that we lose the delight of ministry, of relationship because we keep sacrificing and taking on these weights of responsibility. 

And that’s part of how we know that we’re off-center. We slipped out of Jesus’ easy yoke. 

Kristi: 

Yes. There are times when we’re not realizing what “saying yes” to that is going to require us to “say no” to.

Saying “NO” To Jesus

Bill: 

Every time we say yes to something we’re saying no to something or someone else.

Kristi: 

And that someone often is Jesus.

Because I don’t have time and energy to be present. To seek the Lord and to listen to him, to practice some of the disciplines that are nurturing to my relationship with the Lord. 

And in my busyness, I get preoccupied. 

I just take it for granted.

Bill: 

Yes. So there is laziness where we just start drifting and letting things happen. Whether it’s our email inbox or the requests that people are making of us or the papers on our desk. 

It just sort of pulls us into motion. Motion that we might like because we don’t have to self-activate. Maybe we’re checking some things off our list, but we’re not really deciding. 

And even more to the point, we’re not really discerning what God would have us to do.

We’re not in that relational mode of appreciating God’s presence and then proceeding with the Lord.

Filling Your Jar

Kristi: 

I think we get influenced by others around us as well. 

When I was in high school, I remember a youth pastor giving a talk on priorities. I remember him having this jar there and having rice and a pitcher of water and some walnuts and talking about how, if we don’t put the big and the important things in the jar first, they’re not going to fit. 

He put the water in the jar first, and then he put the rice in, and then there was no room for the walnuts. And he said the walnuts are the most important thing. If you put the walnuts in first, and then you add the rice and then you add the water, it all fits.

It was an illustration about your priorities and making sure that you put the most important priorities in first, you make room and space in your life for God first. 

And so oftentimes I will see people around me in the culture, their jars full of this beautiful water, and I’m thinking, “oh, yeah, I want some of that”. And so maybe I’ll let the water in. And then they’ve got this white rice and it’s expanding and it’s fluffy. 

So maybe I’ll feel like “oh yeah, I’ve got room in my jar. Yeah. Put some rice in. Yeah. I’ll have some of that too”. 

And I’m not realizing that there’s not going to be space for the walnuts.

Bill: 

The most important priorities and goals for your life or family or your church. 

Yes. And that’s what this pastor was talking about, about setting aside time, actually not to get stuff done or isn’t even necessary. He’s talking about setting aside time for personal soul care and embassy with God. 

But he’s also talking about setting aside time for discernment around our work, our productivity, our ministry, and having a sense of God’s priorities and the best use of our time. 

If you’re a megachurch pastor, if you’re a missionary out in the field, if you’re leading a company, if you’re retired and what’s most important to you as being a grandparent, whatever our life is, whatever our work is, whatever works of love we are doing, it’s important that we are discerning about how would God have us to do that.

And what would be the most important priorities?

Kristi: 

Yes. And sometimes we think that we can fit more in our jar. Then we think we could expand our jar.

Bill: 

You might struggle with that.

Kristi: 

So I think that’s another thing, having to accept the reality of that. We don’t get to control that our jar is what it is and we’re responsible for managing that.

Abandonment To Divine Providence

Bill: 

Yes. A lot of us don’t like that, I’m teasing about it, but it is a part of me that finds it hard to accept the limits of a 24 hour day or a workweek. 

And so always trying to find a time somewhere to be more productive. That’s a fallacy, that’s a slippery slope that’s eventually a path to burnout if we don’t self-correct. 

I’ve experienced that as many of you on this podcast have heard, one of the things that really helps me to recalibrate and stay in tune with Jesus’ easy yoke is reading the classics of Christian devotion.

And I have a whole shelf here just full of these ancient books that have really been a blessing to me. One of my favorite things that we do in our Soul Shepherding  Institute is every morning over breakfast. I give a Soul Food reading from one of the classic devotional books that have really blessed me in my intimacy with God and in my life.

Bill: 

One of these is from a writer named Jean-Pierre De Caussade from the 1600s and 1700s. And he was a Jesuit spiritual director and writer who wrote the book Abandonment to Divine Providence, which is one of the all-time great devotional classics

And it is one of my favorite sections that really illustrates what we’re talking about in terms of being unbusy and in the easy yoke passage in Matthew 11. The message paraphrase Eugene Peterson says, has Jesus inviting us into the unforced rhythms of grace and that’s the wording for the easy yoke of Jesus. 

I just love that. Jean-Pierre says the only condition necessary for us. He’s talking about the life of discipleship to Jesus. This life is a servant leader. The only condition necessary for us is self-surrender to God in the present moment. 

And then our soul becomes light as a feather, fluid as water, innocent as a child in response to every movement of grace, like a floating balloon, we are molten metal filling, whatever vessel God chooses to pour us into.

Bill: 

I love that because it’s giving me a vision and the spirit or attitude and some wording for this life and journey, the soul, we call it spirit-led ministry.

This easy yoke life where I’m not pushing, forcing, overworking, relying on myself, putting more pressure and expectation on myself, working harder to make things happen. 

Instead, I’m putting my first and best energy into self-surrender to God in the present moment. And so Lord, what would you want to be said or done? Lord, I lay my day out before you, would you lead me in the activities of this day? 

This sort of an attitude is, in these kinds of prayers, in the “Easy Yoke” book, we call it abandoning outcomes to God. 

This demeanor helps us stay out of workaholism, people-pleasing, and these paths of burnout.

We Need to Learn Soul Training

Bill: 

This is the kind of thing that we need to learn. We need to do some soul training on spiritual retreats, or if you can do it on a sabbatical. And gosh, if you’re a pastor, missionary, a Christian worker, we would love to help you with a sabbatical

We can set you up for three months depending upon your situation, but the time that you need to get unplugged from your work and your mission, your ministry, to really rest and renew and tune into God’s presence in a new way.

To do some of the deeper work, some of the soul work. Some of the soul therapy with some places in your life where there’s hurt or distress, or even a spiritual retreat a week away like we do in our Soul Shepherding Institute can really help you. 

Refresh has been so important for me, these rhythms of getting away and doing the soul training and solitude in a community; like we’ve been talking about on this series on “beating burnout”. We do that training.

We come more into this way of life with Jesus, these unforced rhythms of grace. 

We learn how to be an unbusy person, an unbusy leader. 

It doesn’t mean we don’t work hard, but it means we’re not frenzied. 

We’re not in a hurry. We’re not cramming too much into a space where it doesn’t exist. We’re keeping our relational brain activated. 

We’re staying awake to God’s presence, awake to the people around us, awake to our own feelings and needs. This is the life that Jean-Pierre De Caussade is talking about and that’s food for our souls.

Kristi: 

So it inspires you when you read these writers. And you read about their training in this and their words and the difference that it’s made in their life, and you take heart from them and you think, “oh, yes, I want that.” 

And this is, this reminds me of what Jesus talks about in the parable of the virgins and their 10 lanterns. It’s like, we’ve got to keep our lanterns lit. 

And if we aren’t caring for our souls and learning to lean into this opportunity to rest, we get lazy with it. 

We won’t have the fuel that we need, the soul fuel that we need to present to Jesus.

Bill: 

The classic devotional writers inspire us and give to us from their lives. These women and men have shown us how to wait on God, how to self-surrender to God in the present moment. 

And they model for us and even mediate to us through the holy spirit, this longing for God. This devotion to Jesus and the best of the writers are also emotionally honest about their shortcomings, their weaknesses, their hurts, their spiritual struggles, and questions. 

We get that emotionally honest faith. So you see, in someone’s life, how they work through it. 

This very much inspired me in all of the Soul Shepherding content that we create from our blog to our books, to our Institute, everything is inspired in part by these classic writers.

Kristi: 

Mining. So you’ve mined many classic books to find the best.

Learning From The Master

Bill:

Yes. And it’s not just the wisdom that they teach, it is that it’s also the way, the spirit, the attitude. And it’s coming through their life and their relationship with God because we need examples. We need models.

Kristi: 

That’s why we’ve worked so hard to work it through our life too, and to make some helpful models and examples for people like it, sabbaticalguide.com and through our soul shepherding resources and Institute

And we often will say, Jesus, his yoke is easy, but getting into the yolk that takes effort, that doesn’t feel easy. And if we’re lazy, we’re not going to get into it.

Bill: 

That’s the training getting into Jesus’ easy yoke and learning to stay there. It’s not training for an easy life. Now, life is hard. Ministry is hard. Jesus’ easy yoke is an easy way of doing hard things. 

And that’s what our book, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke is all about. It very much dovetails with this series on beating burnout and leading from a rested soul.