I put the word “busy” into the search field of an online Christian book site and 1,476 products came up. While some of them were different versions of the same title, the search revealed one more way we define ourselves-busy. Released this month is yet another- Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy by Alli Worthington.
Alli Worthington is no exception to this self-definition, and she is, in fact, busy. Throughout her book we learn some of her personal story as she navigates family and career busyness. Married with five sons, Alli and her husband were close to burnout-he worked full time, she ran her own business. They led a small group in their church, both taught Sunday school, he coached peewee football and again, she has five sons. FIVE. That’s busy right there, amen? Together they found themselves in a busyness that took all the joy out of what should have been the most enjoyable pursuits.
The book opens with a story we can all relate to-the panicked search for something seemingly lost but is in our hand/purse/pocket, or in Alli’s case, her…well, you’ll just have to read for yourself. It is that moment when too much on your mind meets I don’t know what I’m doing, and it’s a sure sign you’ve reached capacity. Using the metaphor of a cell phone to demonstrate our limitations, (needing to be recharged, limited space and functionality, each brand unique and different) we’re introduced to personal cost of busyness. She identifies seven signs of capacity overload:
- Inability to control your emotions
- Lack of self-care
- Chronic lateness
- Self-medicating and excess
- Neglecting important relationships and the most damaging of all
- Neglecting God
On this final point she says, “Staying connected to God is what keeps me operating within my capacity and what helps me understand that God made me with limitations on purpose. Having a limited capacity is not a flaw in my character. It is by glorious design and for an incredible purpose: to realize my need for Him.”
She doesn’t leave us hanging with only our warning signs to condemn us, but offers three things to identify the what, when and why we are exceeding our capacity. This is something every reader of this book needs to ponder, it is the foundation needed in order to apply any of the insight and practices outlined in the rest of the book.
Each subsequent chapter topic focuses on both the reasons for and the responses to busyness in our lives. Notice the sense of moving forward toward something in each subtitle:
- Relationships-Finding your connection in a world of acquaintances
- Calling-Finding your purpose in a world of striving
- Editing-Finding God’s best in a world of options
- Thoughts-Finding your peace in a world or worry
- Traditions-Finding your groove in a world of expectations
- Time-Finding your rhythm in a world of overwhelm
- Decisions-Finding your confidence in a world of choices
- Communication-Finding your voice in a world of noise
- Worth-Finding your value in a world of never good enough
Most of us will find at least one of these chapters hitting us right where we currently live. Especially helpful for some might be the realization that it is attitudes more than activities that is causing their crazy busy. Each chapter ends with a few action steps to help you identify and apply the breaking of busy in your own life.
Some books I’ve read on the topic of busyness give only passing nod to Biblical insights and spiritual practices, this book is more balanced in this area than some I’ve read. Using her own experiences of busyness as the illustration of her points, she also shares the ways her relationship with God directed the changes in her outlook and actions. I really appreciated that, though there were times I felt I was reading her autobiography. Occasionally this wore a little thin for me, some of her stories go on a little too long with a few too many details. This is something I’m sensitive to in books, a purely personal preference of style, so don’t let that discourage you. Her ability to bring the takeaway by the end of the chapter redeemed those portions.
On her writing style, another note: I always enjoy a southern writer! She has that friendly, conversational style that must come from having a drawl when she speaks and honing her writing chops on a blog. She’s open, honest, funny, insightful and encouraging.
I received my copy of Breaking Busy as a member of the launch team before the book was released. Being on a launch team carries a certain anxiety for me-what if I hate the book? What if I can’t recommend it? I wasn’t far into this book when I was confident that I would be able to recommend it without reservation. This is an accessible book with realistic application for something each of us needs to be addressing in our lives. We may not all relate to her struggles or find value in solutions that worked for her, but we will all see that there is path available for the life we are intended to live.
In the epilogue, she makes an important distinction that I leave you with to inspire you if you’re on the fence about the book.
“As we close out our time together in this book, I want to be sure we never confuse a busy life with a full life. To me, a busy life is frazzled, harried lived at a pace I’m not meant to live, doing things I’m not meant to do. A busy life is a life the Enemy has created in order to keep me from God’s purpose. A full life on the other hand, is a life lived in step with what God has called me to do. I like how Jesus said it in John 10:10: “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.””
Consider making room for more fullness in your life by taking on the challenge of Breaking Busy.
Read well, friends.