It’s been a while since my last post–a loooooong while! But, I have been “busy,” as they say, which really means that I’ve not been making much of my time, and I’ve trifled it away.
Such was the danger that old Mr. Wesley sought for his “helpers” in the ministry among the People Called Methodist to avoid. So much so that he included in his “Twelve Rules for Helpers” one which stands out to me today: “Never be triflingly employed.”
On one level, that could mean that Methodist preachers are not to allow themselves to be under-utilized. I’ve never met a person who was truly a “part-time pastor,” so it would be difficult for most ministers and preachers to consider themselves “triflingly employed” most of the time.
In another sense, one could be said to be “triflingly employed” by all of the distractions that worm their way into our lives on a regular basis. Checking Facebook every three minutes or tweeting every thought that comes into your mind might be considered being “triflingly employed,” (hint, hint, Mr. President…) as would our modern obsession with all things bright, shiny, and technological.
But in a deeper way, not being “triflingly employed” could also mean avoiding the busyness of the way we live our lives today. We fill our minutes and hours with stuff– both objects and pastimes that attract our attention, but also with busy work that we create for ourselves so that we don’t have to address the injustices and existential crises facing us on a regular basis. It’s become a badge of honor in our world to say “I’m busy,” but what that really means is that most of us have filled up our lives with trivia and extraneous activity such that we no longer have time to live mindfully in the moment. Because we can get anywhere we want relatively quickly, and we have information at our fingertips like never before, we are enabled in this madness of trying to fill our time. I think that even in Mr. Wesley’s day, being “triflingly employed” had a similar meaning. Though the technology may change and our tastes and styles may evolve, we human beings seem to have a penchant for filling out time triflingly.
So what is the remedy? What antidote do we have for the poison that is being employed in a manner most trifling? The answer is: Nothing.
In other words, we need to stop doing so much that everything we do is negated by our being too busy to enjoy it or savor it for what it is. We need to stop doing so much, and do more of nothing. It seems counter-intuitive, but I think even good old John W. would approve of a little Sabbath rest now and then–though he took precious little Sabbath on his own. The answer to being “triflingly employed” then is to not be employed all the time.
Sometimes I knit when I have nothing else to do. It helps me relax. I like to think that keeping my hands busy keeps me from being “triflingly employed,” because I’m doing something useful. And it’s true–that can be one of the readings of this Wesleyan rule. But what if I put my knitting down, looked around me, and actually took in the people and surroundings in my midst? What if I spent more time just being? It could have a radical effect on my life. That’s probably why it scares the hell out of me. Which means I should probably do it, precisely because it scares the hell out of me.
So do nothing today. Resolve to no longer be “triflingly employed,” but to be unemployed from time to time. You might just find yourself nearer to the heart of God.
Busy as always,