We could all probably do with another dose or two of wisdom. I know that I could! Today's devotion from Patrick Morley mines Solomon's teachings in Ecclesiastes for wisdom on toil and striving--the ingredients of "busyness." Be sure to read this one. It is light reading but has deep meaning.
Even though this one is short and light, it took me a while to reach the end. It always slows me down when I come across an unfamiliar or incorrect word. Where did Morley come up with this word "busyness" anyway? I thought it was spelled "business," so I set out to find an explanation. Let's look at this thing logically. If you look up spelling rules, it is pretty simple. "If the letter before a final y is a consonant, the y changes to i when you add a suffix, except when the suffix begins with an i." By all rights, the "y" on "busy" should become an "i" before adding "ness," and you get "business." "Busyness" should be "business." That's that. I think I'll write to Morley's publisher and let them know about their mistake.
Or maybe not. Amazingly enough, "business" and "busyness" have two separate entries in the dictionary--sort of. Unfortunately, they don't really clarify my problem. Webster's number one definition of "business" is an "archaic" usage which means "purposeful activity: BUSYNESS." Aha! Business means "busyness," right? I have come to enjoy using electronic and online dictionaries that have "links" on words so that I can follow them. "BUSYNESS" was one of those linked words. When I followed it, I found myself looking at the definition of "busy," and the word "busyness" was nowhere to be found. No, wait. There it was, just after definition number 4, "full of distracting detail." Wait a minute here! We go from "purposeful activity" to "full of distracting detail" in the click of a link! Which one do I fall under? Which definition applies to me?
Perhaps the answer is "both." In fact, perhaps it is this very double entendre that gives Morley's devotion so much meaning for all of us today. Most of us are anxious to find purpose in our lives, in our work, in our community. When we find a purpose, we take action to satisfy it. This is the "purposeful activity" side of business.
Now, those actions take time. They take attention to detail. If we aren't careful, those details will consume our attention until we lose site of the purpose. We find ourselves trapped in "busyness"--activity that distracts from the purpose. If we aren't careful, the purpose gets lost, and when that happens we run the risk of being busy and counterproductive at the same time.
I am not suggesting that we should never get busy. Not at all. But we cannot allow our "busyness" (full of distracting detail) to interfere with our Lord's "business" (purposeful activity). May we all find our purposeful activity in doing our Lord's business daily.
Dear Lord, show me your business. Teach me your business. Let me hunger to fulfill your purpose for my life. When I catch some small glimpse of that purpose, give me the courage to engage in purposeful activity for you, and let me be ever mindful of your final purpose so that my busyness (the distracting details of my activities) does not blind me from the glory of your business for me, for the community, and for the world. Amen.
Grace and peace--