A Word on Wednesday: Busy

Remember the days of land lines actually attached to a wall. Remember trying to call someone dialing just seven digits, and getting a jarring, repetitive, static-y tone?

Busy. Try again. Still busy. There was no way to leave a message. There was no way to send an email or text. There was no way to reach the person in that moment at all. And, this was annoying. The “brr brr brr” echoing in the receiver was a frustrating sound, a dead end.


Busy is a word from Old English, bisig, meaning “careful” or “anxious.” Later surfaces of the word are from the Old Dutch, bezich, meaning “continually employed or occupied, in constant or energetic action.” The notion of “anxiousness” has drained from the word since Middle English.

Indeed, today, we wear busy as a badge of honor. We are so busy with our work, with our families, with our hobbies, with everything. We view our colleague’s calendar to set up a meeting and see her’s is stacked with blocks titled “busy” sometimes double booked.  This is a stamp of importance, so many meetings to attend!

Presently, the adjective, means actively and attentively engaged in work; not at leisure, otherwise engaged. For example, he couldn’t see any visitors because he was busy. It can mean full of or characterized by activity: a busy life.

In the case of the telephone line, not immediately accessible. We begrudgingly accepted the phone line was busy. The person on the phone was present in another activity, just a step away from a wall. We heard the message that they couldn’t be reached. 

I, too, am busy. With the day job, with my family, with my book clubs, with my church, with my hobbies. I mistake activity for leisure, when often times, I am just filling time to avoid genuine rest. I choose to fill my calendar with group outings and volunteer meetings. I choose to be busy. I boast about how busy I am and therefore unable to accept visitors.

I send out a signal to the world, “brr, brr, brr. You can’t reach me.” I feel I send this message to God as well. Too busy to hear His voice, to live His will. It is a challenge to be still. To be open. To be reachable, receptive. When I fill every hour of every day, I do not yield the joy of spontaneity. Scheduled to the brim, I just go down the list bouncing from one activity to the next.

At times, I grow uncomfortable in stillness. It feels more natural to be engaged, busy. I am a Martha in Luke’s Gospel, busying myself with seemingly important tasks. In the bible story, Jesus visits the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to his teaching while Martha busies herself serving him. Martha was bothered by Mary’s lack of assistance.

Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

The one thing that is necessary is to listen to His teachings. I wonder, if when the time comes for me to hear Him, will He reach a busy signal. I hope to leave enough room to answer the call.

One Comment on “A Word on Wednesday: Busy

  1. Pingback: A Word on Wednesday: Exhausted – Words, Crazy Words

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