Giving up "busy" for Lent

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Are you giving up something for Lent? Perhaps you are following tradition and giving up meat. Or something like chocolate or coffee. Maybe you’re logging out of Facebook until Easter. Perhaps this year you’re taking up a new habit, like prayer or a particular type of service.

Lent is that time of year when Christians across the globe focus on repentance, reflection,  and preparation for Good Friday and then for Easter Sunday. This Lent, I’m giving up being busy. It’s been a busy year for me—new jobs, house, city, state, church, community, and friends. And it’s getting to me. I’m starting to feel the overwhelmed, anxious feeling that signals there’s too much on my plate. When I’m busy, I find myself filled with stress and unable to focus on what’s in front of me. My task list fills so much brain space that I can’t listen to God.

So I’m not taking on anything new during Lent. No new assignments, commitments, or travel. I’m slowing down to make more space for God. My life is full of good things—too full. I want to choose the only thing needed—sitting at Jesus’ feet.

I’m rethinking my schedule to see how we can shape our days and weeks with space for quiet, for rest, and for the unexpected. It’s when my days are overly packed that I am most upset when there’s a wrench in my plan—like the inevitable snow day.  Making margin in my life allows me to serve and pray for others when needed and to respond to the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes being busy is a badge of honor in our society. When asked how we are, the common response is “busy.” Are we proud of it? Does it make us feel productive or worthy of respect? Busyness doesn’t equal holiness, success, or popularity. Busyness doesn’t make me worthy, valued, or happy. Busyness crowds out peace and joy and makes it harder to enjoy the people and the tasks around me.

T. S. Eliot, in his poem “Ash Wednesday,” writes:

Where shall the word be found, where will the word

Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.

It takes silence to encounter Jesus, the living Word. Busyness crowds out silence.

My desire is to encounter Jesus, the Word, during Lent. I’m giving up being busy to do so. In the silence, may the Word resound in my heart.


Anna Moseley Gissing is a recent transplant to Bethlehem who researches, writes, and speaks about family, faith, and culture. She currently serves as Associate for Engagement with InterVarsity’s Women in the Academy and Professions and as a writing instructor for Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Anna is married to Jeff (Director of Discipleship) and is mother to a first-grade son and a preschool daughter.