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Discipleship in a world of busy

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I help coach my daughter’s ball hockey team. It’s fun and sometimes head-thumpingly frustrating to watch 7–8 year-olds figure out the nuances of playing a game together. Everyone wants to be the star.

Positional play? – Oy veh! Teaching a newbie to understand that staying in position is better for her and the team requires patience and produces the distinct sense you are an elevator song on repeat. I have gone hoarse beckoning young defensemen back to the blue line while they chase the ball behind the opposing team’s net.

Buffeted by busyness

We have many good players on our team, but we play way too busy. There is a reason we are winless.

It strikes me that the frantic play of these little ones is a symptom. Who leads them to live this way? Multiple munchkins on our team are in multiple sports on the same day! They are busy, busy, busy.

Their lives become about running from one thing to the next, always experiencing but not necessarily engaging anything deeply. Is it any wonder they keep running blindly when they hit the floor?

So, my eyes rise from these wonderful kids on the arena floor to the stands where parents are checking their watches to see if they’ll get to the next thing and scrolling through their phones, paying attention to people who aren’t present.
We’re all prone to this lack of life-attention as we are buffeted about in our busyness.

Is this just a middle-class issue, the burden of those who still haven’t found what they’re looking for?

I’m not so sure.

I believe this is something much broader and deeper, perhaps even something stemming from the principalities and powers that hold sway.

Culturally – and I grant this is from my limited vantage point – we are a thoroughly distracted and undisciplined culture. Our busyness, our itch for constant distraction and amusement, is sign of our inability to live within limits and from deep-seated convictions.

Positional play

We are disciplined only in our busyness, and that leads us to be undisciplined everywhere else – even to shun those things that are most life-giving. We are addicted to busy, and there is as of yet no Busy-holics Anonymous.

So, how are we to make disciples in a world of busy? I am increasingly convinced that swapping one form of activity for another – even Christian, churchy bustlings – is not the answer. People do not need more stuff loaded on their overflowing plates or even a better balance on them – they’re stuffed to the gills as it is.

We need to assess whether we hold any convictions we’re ready to discipline life around. To recover my ball hockey coach observation: we need to learn the value of getting into position, for only from there will we learn the life
that wins.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

Jesus invites stressed and busy people to a yoke. Not exactly the image of the “free,” self-determined life we chase like an orange ball on an arena surface. To be yoked to Jesus is to allow him to take the lead and teach us, coach us, in the better way. The first step of discipleship in a world of busy is counterintuitive: the discipline of staying hitched to Jesus’ lead. This will take some very practical forms and rhythms, themselves counterintuitive but ultimately freeing and full of life.

So, some questions to consider:

  •  What does the pace of my life reveal about my deepest convictions?
  •  What disciplined position must I learn (or relearn) to bring my life in line with my deepest convictions?
  •  What is my pace of life communicating to others about where meaning and identity are ultimately found?
  •  Who do I need to help me stay true to my decision to be yoked to Jesus, and what role does Christ-centred community play in this?

Phil-Wagler—Phil Wagler is lead pastor of Gracepoint Community Church, Surrey, B.C., and author of Kingdom Culture. He’s still learning the value of staying in position and listening to the coach.

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