School's back in session. And between hauling children to and from classes, dance lessons, music lessons, sports practice, and church activities, many parents (not to mention their children) are already feeling frazzled. And this is just the beginning of the academic year!
Busyness is a problem all of us face. In fact, a 2007 study asked over 20,000 teens and adults if "the busyness of life gets in the way of developing [their] relationship with God." The response? Six in 10 Christians said they are too busy for God.
Are you? That's the question which Ann Kroeker poses in her new book, Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families.
Of all the groups most affected by the busyness epidemic—perhaps the American family has been the worst hit. A self-assumed pressure to make sure the children get every opportunity to give them an edge academically, socially, physically, and even spiritually, pushes us to push them. But somewhere in the process—something is getting buried. And it might just be our souls.
In her new book, Kroeker quotes Pastor John Ortberg as saying, "For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so busy and distracted and rushed that we will settle for a mediocre version of it." It is hurry which, he goes on to say, is the great enemy of the spiritual life.
One of the things I appreciate most about Kroeker's book, Not So Fast, is that she examines the motivations that can get families to this point. These are motivations for safety like: "The best way to keep kids out of trouble is to keep them busy." They are motivations based in competition, like: "An abundance of activities and volunteer work looks good on college applications." And they are motivations based on keeping up an appearance, like: "We feel important and indispensible when we're busy."
The trouble is when we dig down deeper with motivations like these and others, Kroeker points out, we find that many of them are based on fear, envy, pride, insecurity, and a love of the approval of man. And as we squeeze every last drop out of out of our days, our children are getting squeezed in the process.
For the Kroeker family, it took a serious illness for their family to begin to see what a mind- and soul-numbing pace they had been living. That wake up call was what it took for them to slow down.
I like the fact that the book, Not So Fast, doesn't suggest mere cookie-cutter approaches for what families should do to regain balance in their lives. Instead it invites us to examine what's at the root of these choices, and to repent of the motivations when they are based in sin. And then it offers a variety of suggestions for helping families make much more meaningful connections both with each other and God.
As Kroeker says, "For everyone who yearns for the benefits of a slower life, I want to point to Jesus and say, ‘Start here. Start with the One who offers true and lasting peace.'"
She's right. Not So Fast is a book Christian families need, if only we'll slow down long enough to read it and heed it.
*This commentary first published on October 7, 2009.
Note: This BreakPoint commentary delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.