Busy, or Empty?

Posted by
Dr. JoAnn Butrin

In ministry, we sometimes wear our busyness like a badge of honor – comparing how many trips, miles, conferences, speaking engagements, and meetings fill our calendars.

The truth is, a busy schedule doesn’t equal a full life, as seen in the miracle of Jesus turning water to wine.

Busyness and the process of turning water to wine have a lot more in common than you might think. Let’s take a closer look at one of the key details of this story that is often overlooked: the vessels.

A Closer Look

Jesus said to fill the vessels with water, but according to their tradition, they would have first gone through this process:

  • Empty the jars from debris, clutter, leaves, cobwebs
  • Purification process to make sure the jars were ready to receive water
  • Jars filled with water
  • Water/wine given to the guests

Empty or Full?

In the process of being busy for Jesus, sometimes our “vessel” gets full. However, we are not always full of Jesus. As we run around speaking, serving, networking, meeting, taking phone calls on the car ride to the airport, we can begin to collect some debris – attitudes, irritations, grumblings, unclean thoughts – and instead of gratefulness, we complain. All kinds of “garbage” and “debris” make their way into our vessel.

Spiritual formation virtuoso Ruth Haley Barton teaches that if we are not growing in self-awareness through honest self-knowledge and self-examination, there is every possibility that our leadership may do more harm in the end than the hoped-for good.

Many leaders in our society rise to power and position based on their extroversion. These leaders rise to power by operating very competently and effectively in the external world, sometimes at the cost of internal awareness.

So many leaders will step into their next-scheduled ministry situation with a quick prayer of, “Lord, fill me up so I can give out good things from You.” However, we need to reverse the order, instead praying, “Empty me, Lord, so I can be full of You.”

Henri Nouwen encourages us to retreat from our busy schedules to pray and:

Unmask the illusion of busyness, usefulness, and indispensability. Indeed, wasting time for God is an act of ministry, because it reminds us and our people that God is free to touch anyone regardless of our well-meant efforts. It indeed is a hard discipline to be useless in God’s presence and to let him speak in the silence of my heart. But whenever I become a little useless I know that God is calling me to a new life beyond the boundaries of my usefulness. From: THE LIVING REMINDER

My Vessel

Psalm 139 says, “Search me, oh God. Know my heart.”

  1. Every day, do some “emptying” – Self-evaluate what may have accumulated in your vessel – attitudes, irritations, self-absorptions, secret sins – and empty them at the Master’s feet.
  2. Cleanse and purify – Lord, take care of anything I didn’t have enough insight or courage to reveal. Cleanse me, purify me as only You can.
  3. Be still. We can sit still, but stilling our minds is not an easy task.

“The problem is not entirely finding the room of one’s own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as that is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea

“I know the wheel is starting to fall off when the meal I’m preparing is more important than the people I’m preparing it for.”  When a point I am making is more important than the person I’m making it to. When my work becomes more important than the family I’m working for. I know the wheel is falling off when I lose the sense of sacredness of another human being.” Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul

It’s not easy to step out of your busy schedule. Most often our head is spinning from all the texts and emails coming our way. However, it’s imperative that to take time to inspect your vessel, go through the cleansing process and allow Jesus to fill it up. It’s the only way you will be always at the ready to be used to truly serve and minister to others.

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