Busy. Work, exercise, email, soccer practice, homework, Facebook, church, shopping, blogs, TV, more work—if there is any single word nearly all Americans use to describe themselves, it is "Busy." Kevin DeYoung, a senior pastor, speaker, blogger, father of five, and author of the new book Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem (Crossway), would know about busyness. Caught in the middle of hectic schedules and overcommitments, DeYoung decided to uncover the roots of busyness to discover how Christians can find peace amidst the chaos. Jeff Haanen, executive director of Denver Institute for Faith & Work, corresponded with DeYoung on the tyranny of email, "not to-do" lists, "freaking out" about our kids, and setting clear priorities as followers of Christ.
You're a full-time pastor, a writer, an in-demand speaker, blogger, and parent of five children. As someone who has friends who say, "Your schedule is a mess. This is one of your biggest problems," why did you—of all people—write a book on busyness?
I'm the best and worst person to write this book. I try to be very honest in the book that I am not writing because I have reached a state of calm equilibrium and tranquility. My life often feels like a whirling dervish of kids, writing, speaking, and pastoral ministry. And yet, I think that makes me a good candidate to write a book like this. I wanted to do this book, first of all, because I have a problem and need help. Hopefully, some of the thing I've learned in working on this project can be helpful to others who feel crazy busy just like me.
When Americans are asked how they're doing, they often respond, "Busy." Why do you think this is?
There are probably a number of reasons. One, it's a safe, non-threatening conversation piece. It doesn't take a lot of relational effort to talk about how busy we are. Two, I think the confession of busyness has become a socially acceptable way of saying "no." If someone asks you to help move a couch or to come over for dinner you could say, "I have many priorities in my life and frankly you are not one of them right now." Or you could say "I'm busy." The latter will be much more warmly received. Three, there is often a measure of pride in our busyness. If I'm busy, we reckon, I must be important, in demand, and living a worthwhile life. Therefore, it's to our credit that we are busy.
You write that pride—the desire to prove ourselves, acquire more possessions, self-pity—is at the heart of much of our busyness. But you also call readers to "embrace the burdens of busyness" as those called by Christ into his service. How, then, can we tell if we're busy for the right or wrong reasons?
I try to keep in my mind the simple question: Am I trying to do good or make myself look good? Too many of our responsibilities get added to our plate when we are trying to please people, impress people, prove ourselves, acquire power, increase our prestige. All those motivations are about looking good more than doing good. Not a good reason to be crazy busy.
You reference an article by Joseph Epstein on how we live in a "Kindergarchy"—a culture ruled by children. Why is it that we "freak out" about our children and adopt such hectic schedules in the process?
Somehow we've adopted a spiritual determinism when it comes to our children. Even if we know that our children are sinful by nature, and that they must be sovereignly born again by the Spirit, and that the deepest issues arise from their hearts, we can act like they are simply putty in our hands to be shaped according to our wills. The truth is we do not control the spiritual outcome of our children. We want to be faithful and get the basics of discipline and spiritual instruction in place, but after that we can easily make the Bible say absolute things about childrearing that it doesn't address.