“Man, I’m so busy right now.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a conversation or an email like this. I really hate doing it, but there it is. It’s even worse when a friend or family member opens up a conversation saying, “I know you’re busy, but…”
When it comes to busyness, compared to Kevin DeYoung, I’m a lightweight. He preaches multiple times on Sundays, writes books, blogs, tweets, has all the responsibilities that come with being the senior pastor of his church… oh yeah, and he’s married with five (soon six) kids!
So, realizing he’s got way too much on his plate and has no concept of “margin,” he made the logical decision and wrote another book: Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem.
Crazy Busy isn’t written from the position of having figured out the secret of overcoming busyness. “I’m writing this book not because I know more than others but because I want to know more than I do,” he explains. “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” (12).
In doing so, DeYoung writes inviting to join him on the journey. This is a nice approach, one I really appreciated throughout much of the book. More often than not, I found myself identifying with his diagnoses of the causes of busyness, which ranged from the overtly sinful (pride in its various forms) to some genuinely good reasons that get a bit off course (parenting immediately comes to mind).
One of my particularly nasty habits is being a bit too attached to my devices. When I got my first iPhone, I played incessantly on it for about two weeks. My wife wanted to throw it into the street (and probably would have if it didn’t belong to my employer). The problem for me, for the longest time, was learning to have boundaries with it. An immediate one we put in place was no cellphones in the bedroom. Another was no phones at the dinner table (something she’s rebuked me for in the past and rightly so). But the worst has been how it fed my inability to rest properly.
I’ve always been terrible at “Sabbath-ing.” I don’t vacation well; I’m always doing something (seriously, I think I’ve got three jobs now). One of the things I’ve had to learn is how to actually take steps to plan to rest. I’ve started planning time off well in advance. I deactivate the Mail app whenever I’m on vacation. So I really resonate with what DeYoung writes about how hard this really is to do:
We all know we need rest from work, but we don’t realize we have to work hard just to rest. We have to plan for breaks. We have to schedule time to be unscheduled. That’s the way life is for most of us. Scattered, frantic, boundary-less busyness comes naturally. The rhythms of work and rest require planning. (98)
Probably the standout chapter of the book is the second-to-last, where DeYoung reminds us that while there are many sinful kinds of busyness, sometimes we’re busy because God has made us to be busy. He writes:
The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things. It’s being busy trying to please people, busy trying to control others, busy trying to do things we haven’t been called to do. So please don’t hear from me that work is bad or that bearing burdens is bad. That’s part of life. That’s part of being a Christian. (102)
As Christians we are meant to work hard for God’s glory. We’re to bear one another’s burdens. We’re to spur one another on to love and good deeds. We’re to witness to our community, and do all we set out to do with excellence. That is hard work. And it will keep you very, very busy. But it’s the good kind of busy—the kind where we spend our energy on one another, rather than on ourselves. This is a kind of busy that we all (myself especially) could embrace with a little more zeal.
And honestly, I kind of wish this is where DeYoung had ended Crazy Busy. There’s much that I appreciated throughout the whole thing, but I found myself left a bit wanting as I finished reading.
It’s not like the “one thing you must do” he writes of in the final chapter is bad—”We must make learning from [Jesus] and taking time to be with him a priority”, he writes (113). This is right and true and absolutely necessary in our continued growth as disciples of Jesus and a fine note to end on. But I walked away from the book… unsatisfied.
Maybe it’s a flaw in the “journeying together” style of the book. Maybe I hoped that DeYoung would be a little further ahead of me on this journey. Maybe I simply had unfair expectations of the book itself. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just didn’t grab me the way I’d hoped.
Reading a book by Kevin DeYoung is never a waste of time, and Crazy Busy is no different. His writing is as sharp and naturally zingy as ever. He does a very good job diagnosing the issue of busyness in our lives, and even if it’s not one of his best works, there’s still a great deal of food for thought.
Title: Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Crossway (2013)