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Monday, May 22, 2017

When being busy becomes an idol

Being a purpose junkie is very busy work. So much to do. So little time. How can I make the most of every minute?

I was rereading my favorite self-help book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. I drank in the wisdom of its simplicity.


“What’s your some day goal?”

Gary Keller asks, “What is The One Thing you want to do more than you want to do anything else?” He says all meaningful productivity stems from it. The One Thing we want to do some day determines the one thing we should do in the next five years and one year and one month and one week and one day and one moment. It all boils down to the most important thing I should be doing now.


In three years of reading this book and way before this book came along, mine has been the same-

Share the gospel of Love. Write. Coach. Teach. Speak. Whatever it takes to spread the word that Love is our reason for being here.

It’s my One Thing because, in my own messy life and my (gradually transforming) relationship with Jesus, I’ve learned above all else-

My purpose is love. Your purpose is love. How we each live out that love is unique and significant.


But how, when, where, and what we do to sort out the details of that purpose?

That’s our work. Our ongoing and ever evolving work with God, with ourselves, and in relationship with others. It’s Big Work. All-encompassing work. Vital work. Hard work. Enduring work. Purposeful work.


It’s the work I’ve been hyper-focused on for years.

But this time… when I read the book and reiterated my One Thing, something deep down balked at it. For the first time, it felt “off.”

I twitched at the weird unsettling.

I kept reiterating it, trying to convince myself that my One Thing is to, “Share. Write. Coach. Teach. Speak. Etc. Whatever it takes to spread the word that Love is our reason for being here.”


But sometimes I get so busy doing something, I forget to ask, “Why did I start doing this in the first place?”

Like yeast in my spirit, that question was on a slow, steady rise. It wasn’t enough to identify my “One Thing,” and go after it with gusto.

Gusto only lasts so long and takes me only so far.


Something was missing.

I was on a road trip over the span of a few days, so I rolled the question over and over in my body, mind, and soul as I drove.

I recalled a game my parents used to play with us when I was little. They would hide something my brother and I really wanted to find, then give us “temperature clues” to its whereabouts based on our location.

The further away we went from the hidden treasure, we grew “cool” to “cold.” The closer we came we got “warm and warmer” until we were all but standing right on top of the prize. One of them would say say, “Hot! Hot!”

But still, we could be “hot” and not see what was so close. Until someone would spot it and scream, “found it!” Then, it suddenly became as obvious as Waldo. 


I felt like that as I drove and pondered the missing link- I was hot but couldn’t find what I was looking for.


So I kept circling.

Then I saw it… and would not have without my strange daily ritual of reciting the 10 commandments.

It was a combination of #1 and #2 that made the truth stick out like a sore thumb. (1. “You are the Lord my God, I will have no other gods before you.”  2. “I will not make for myself an idol of any kind.”)

In that moment, I realized my One Thing had become The Work itself- the big, all-encompassing, vital, hard, enduring, purposeful work.


But I’ve learned that, for my own well being,

Not even the most wonderful work can take precedence over God.

The work had, in a way, become what I was worshipping.

Which makes it an idol.

Not as obvious as a golden calf of course. More subtle and effective than that.


“But I don’t want to worship The Work,” I winced once I saw it. “Not even the work of Love.”


So I decided to name a new One Thing.

“To love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.”


This One Thing still allows for The Work to happen but in the flow of the The Spirit rather than pushing and pulling and striving and busting my hump to make something happen.


In other words, I’ve made an idol out of busting my hump.

(That’s kinda silly, right… To make “Busyness” my One Thing no matter what it’s “in the name of.”)


So instead of asking the Work of Love to lead me to God, I’m going to let God lead me in the work of Love.

Practically speaking, that means I’ll be showing up in your inbox less frequently this summer. If something is burning a hole in my keyboard, I’ll send it of course.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot of listening and laughing and loving in my real life.


Want to join me?

Maybe there’s something you’ve inadvertently made an idol of?

There’s no better time than now to change it!






Also published on Medium.



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