Remember back when there were no cell phones? We had land lines, but often my friends would just come by and ring the door bell, and I often found myself on my bike, riding 30 minutes to my friend’s house, only to be turned away because he wasn’t home. If he was, we’d hang out. For all the technology we now have, I think we have regressed in our spontaneity and are worse off for it.
In the technological dark ages of my childhood, we still managed to socially interact with other kids. That seems to be more difficult today—even before COVID—, with multiple stages of interactions required to successfully schedule a “play date”. Back then, I would ask my Mom if I could use the phone, and then call my friends. Today, my kids often ask my wife to talk to So-and-so’s Mom, to see if So-and-so can play. Then the parental back and forth happens, (hopefully) resulting in my kids seeing their friends soon.
We adults aren’t much better, and with even fewer excuses. We can directly talk to other people and make plans, and yet we need to schedule something as common as a meal weeks in advance if we want to share it with others! It’s a bit ridiculous. Why do we do this? I think a big reason is that our lives are too busy. And often by choice, not necessity. We do so many activities, especially with kids, that the little free time we have is spent resting from the exhaustion of our daily schedules. One of the good things of 2020 was the ubiquitous clearing of schedules. Unfortunately that didn’t lead to more hospitality for obvious reasons, but it gave a small taste of what it means to not be so busy all the time. We have enjoyed it and wish that things would not go back to normal in this regard.
In the Bible, busyness is not condemned nor spontaneity praised. But we do find guidelines on how to relate to people. We have plenty of obligations towards ourselves, our families, our churches, our neighbors, and others, so we must prioritize our time. Take inventory of how you spend your time and with whom. Who benefits from it? Who is being built up, encouraged, served, or helped? We should find a healthy balance. If not, maybe we can shuffle things around a bit and make more room for others (or ourselves, if we’re neglecting that!) in our schedules, or include them in activities we’d normally do on our own (as I’ve written about before).
All this sound like we are combating busyness by putting more things on our calendar. Not quite. I’d advocate leaving more days without any obligations. Take a Saturday off. Leave some weekday evenings free. It allows flexibility in serving people better: the person you’ve been praying for off-and-on all day? Invite them over for dinner. Haven’t spent time alone with one of your kids? Make it a date. Been a while since the last family board game night? Do that. Or maybe everyone is just exhausted? Have cereal for dinner, get in your PJs, and read books in bed until you fall asleep.
I hope these suggestions are helpful and think they would result in better relationships. But it’s time for me to go: some friends just called and asked if we’d like to join them at the zoo. It’s been forever since we visited, and we still haven’t seen the new penguin exhibit. Yay for spontaneous friends and a clear schedule!
Photo: Damir Kotorić on Unsplash