The Tyranny of the Undone

By Larry May

Verses To Read:

Christians are called to an active faith throughout scripture. Jesus himself spoke the words we regard today as The Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV). Jesus is telling us to go, to make, to baptize, and to teach. These commands do not imply complacency or inactivity.
We also see much in scripture about resting, finding time to be alone and to pray, and even to “be still” (Psalm 46:10). Jesus was routinely surrounded by the buzz of activity and controversy, yet he seemed to always find time to be aware of and attentive to the people around him.

So, it seems that two things can be true at once:

  1. The Bible calls us to love and serve others and to engage our culture, and this naturally
    produces a lot of activity in our lives.
  2. The Bible calls us to slow our pace, to rest,
    and to be present with those around us.

For me, it is not hard to get inspired to be busy and to get things done. On an average day, if I can look back and see where I’ve checked some things off my to-do list, I usually feel good about that day. And it would seem logical that after knocking some things off my list, there would naturally be fewer things left to do, affording me the opportunity to slow down and rest and spend time with those I know and love the most. But there’s the rub. There always seems to be something else to do. For me, I’ve even given this scenario a name. I call it “the tyranny of the undone.”

I’ve come to believe that if you are a loving, conscientious person who engages with the culture around you (friends, family, workplace, church, etc.), it is very unlikely you will ever come to a time in your life when things don’t seem busy. So somehow, we have to cut through this busyness in order to connect with God and those he has placed in our lives who need us most. If we don’t, then this mindset of always having something else we need to do becomes a sort of “tyrant” – a force that is exerting authority or control over us in a way that is keeping us from being who God has called us to be.

Perhaps part of the answer here is saying “no” to new requests for our time and attention. But I wonder if we could also benefit from just a change in how we think. In other words, the to-do list is still there, but we recognize it always will be, so we choose (like Jesus?) to look away from what seems urgent and undone, and instead focus on the people God has placed right in front of us and the pause we need to take in the moment, right now.

Questions To Consider:

1. When was the last time I had the courage to say “no” to a new request for my time, even if it disappointed the requestor, in order to say “yes” to some extra time with a person close to me who needs my presence?

2. How comfortable am I with just being still? Could I be intentional today about taking a pause just to rest for a few moments, even if it doesn’t feel like I have time to do so?

Prayer to Pray:

Father it seems so unnatural for me to slow down when my world seems to push me to speed up! But I know it would be good for my relationship with you and with others if I could make time on a regular basis to hit the pause button. Please show me how to actively work and serve and engage the culture while also being still with you and being present with those who need me in the moment.