In Jason Headley’s viral video “It’s Not About the Nail,” a woman—unaware of a nail protruding from her forehead—complains to her husband about having a headache. Each time he tries to suggest taking action: remove the nail, she fires back, “it’s not about the nail!” This creative juxtaposition of the male and female response mechanism reveals whether extracting the nail or being heard, both desire an action to secure a solution. As someone with the StrengthsFinder “Achiever” personality trait I can relate: to feel content I must achieve—do—something tangible. Every. Single. Day.

Activity is hardwired into our cultural DNA. In school, we were scolded for pausing to stare out the window—to either be busy or at least appear busy. (Sidebar: I eventually was paid good money as an airline pilot to sit and stare out the window.) Ironically, as a child at home, doing nothing was boring, and grievances were met with parents saying, “If you have nothing to do, I’ll give you something to do,” which was guaranteed to be worse than doing nothing. So we occupied our time doing something. Anything.

And now we struggle to cease doing. Project: Time Off reports that less than half of American employees use their vacation time in its entirety equating to over 700 million unused vacation days annually, forfeiting a potential 255 billion dollar economic boost and 1.9 million jobs. [1] An observation of the American work ethos became evident following the recession circa 2008. By 2012, US productivity, or output per worker, rose nearly 7 percent allowing employers to increase production with fewer people. [2] Employees were literally working themselves out of a job by delivering the proverbial 110 percent effort.

However, this non-stop, over-scheduled lifestyle is in direct conflict with Scripture.

Whether resting on the seventh-day following His initial creation or commending Mary’s presence while her sister worked, God values what may look like doing nothing because, as the great theologian, Winnie the Pooh, once said, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.”

Consider Darley’s and Batson’s experiment which demonstrated that people in a hurry, even when commissioned with the responsibility to preach the parable of the Good Samaritan, were significantly less likely to stop and serve someone in need (10 percent) versus those with margin in their schedule (63 percent). The researchers concluded that for many in the hurried group it was conflict—the pressure to accomplish the task—rather than callousness that impeded them from rendering aid. [3] 

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In short: surrendering to a ruthless schedule causes our saltiness to lose its flavor and our light to be hidden (Matthew 5:13-16). Even though we are able to debate, defend, and share our faith “[the] one thing for which we have little time or patience for,” according to author of Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus, Mark Yaconelli,  “is actually spending time with God.” Specifically meditative time that focuses our attention, increases our receptivity and inspires us to follow the example of Christ. [4]

If good is the enemy of great, busyness is the enemy of calling.

Here are a few examples that your busyness might be negatively affecting your calling: serving others only occurs during specific outreach events; you consistently choose to give money instead of your time; you catch yourself saying, “I’m busy”; you’re regularly overwhelmed by commitments; thoughts race through your head at night keeping you awake; and you periodically forget to respond to text message, etc. Your life is: Go. Go. Go.

The solution: confront busyness and get to doing the nothing that leads to the very best something.

Mark Yaconelli shares with his readers what this looks like, as the kids say, IRL (in real life). During a last minute trip to the mall, Mark noticed a group of developmentally disabled adults escorted by two assistants. One young man with Down Syndrome made it his mission to acquire coffee independently from the aides—eventually reveling in pride from successfully doing so. However, the group departed the mall during a torrential rainstorm. Neglecting to wait for assistance, the young man with the coffee endeavored to go alone toward the van but halfway became frightened and dropped his prized possession: the coffee. He crumpled into what was now a part-water-part-coffee puddle and began to cry. A twenty-something woman sprung from the van, embraced the young man and offered her shoulder as a spot to rest his head upon. For several minutes they sat in the continuing rain—“[her] response was natural, flowing from her willingness to be present to the people she served.” [4]

She was unhurried. She was available. And she modeled the very position we must embrace should we aspire to live out our calling and significantly impact humanity for the Kingdom. 

As difficult as it might be, we must confront our own comfort and learn to resist the feeling that activity equals productivity, welcoming stillness as the pathway toward understanding calling. 

We must also confront our self-esteem, ensuring that we possess healthy boundaries that protect our emotions and allow us to be mentally strong enough to say no to activity and yes to the very best something. And we must also confront our schedule, recognizing that while having every moment planned may provide a sensation of control, that control happens at the expense of availability for interruptions—like spilled coffee in the rain.