My wife Carolann and I arrived in the Pacific Northwest exactly seven years ago. The timing of our call could not have come at a busier time for us; we were serving the Central California Conference as ministerial and evangelism directors and had various projects going on. Our gut response was, “We are too busy right now to move; perhaps later.”
Our president, in an attempt to keep us in California, offered Carolann a full-time job as associate director, along with a masters in theology from La Sierra University. And as if this wasn’t enough, he offered to put her on the commissioning track.
I was excited for Carolann, who had labored in ministry by my side for more than twenty years as a volunteer. She had received other invitations to serve as a salaried employee but she had declined the invitations so we could continue serving as a team. We just had too many good excuses to not want to come to the PNW. We were certainly too busy enjoying our service to ministry couples.
Jesus told a story in the book of Luke:
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' Another said, 'I have just bought five yokes of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can’t come'" (Luke 14:16–20).
So, it seems those invited to this banquet were too busy to come, and each presented different polite excuses to abstain from showing up. In summary, they all responded to the servant’s announcement that the banquet was ready by replying, “Sorry, but we are too busy.”
We know this invitation symbolizes the heavenly banquet the Lord is preparing for His treasured guests to enjoy with Him. It represents heaven’s utmost effort to attract the objects of God’s deepest affection to Himself. God’s deepest longing and cherished goal for us is that we would come and accept the banquet invitation to sup with Him — a meaningful invitation so culturally singular in the ancient East. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but wants all to joyfully participate in His kingdom banquet.
Let’s assume this banquet represents our family. What would keep you from showing up? What are the excuses we give for staying away from special moments with our families? Sleeping in our own bed and seeing our family for a few moments here and there does not mean we are genuinely emotionally connected to our families.
There are too many spiritual leaders who are home physically, but emotionally absent. Sadly, being emotionally absent is typically something we do unconsciously. It is difficult to identify when we have checked out emotionally. Psychosocial studies have demonstrated that parents who are physically present but emotionally absent inadvertently cause deeper emotional damage to their children than when they are unable to be physically present.
Let’s imagine this banquet invitation represents our marriage. What keeps us from showing up? It is not uncommon to hear spouses complaining during the typical counseling session: “I don’t feel he/she is really here,” or “Our bodies are here, but we are drifting apart, and we don’t know how to stop it.” Sometimes, we are just too busy to show up.
Perhaps the banquet dinner represents a relationship with one of our children or all our children. Maybe we just can’t find a way to connect; perhaps we have bought the satanic lie that our growing children don’t really need us, and we have busied ourselves with the piles of ministry commitments.
Our kids are so different; they think and speak another language and we just drift apart as we watch them enjoying their friends and their lives, emotionally disconnected from us. It’s just so easy to not show up!
I still remember the time one of my sons asked me if I remembered when he used to play with his toys next to my home office door, in the hallway. Feeling ashamed, I told him that I did not remember. When I asked him why he would play there under the frame of my door, he said, “Mom told me you couldn’t be bothered because you were so busy, but I still wanted to be close to you.”
Ouch! I had been given a 3-month sabbatical to complete my doctoral dissertation, and I was too busy to notice my 4-year-old son playing at my door during that quarter.
What are our excuses for not showing up to the events, gatherings, family moments which are critical moments in our lives and theirs?
Rewind to our story about the banquet. It seems like the guests forgot that attending the event meant they became recipients of all the Host’s benevolence. The gifts and honors specifically prepared for the guests were far greater than a mere evening of culinary pleasure. Coming to the banquet meant becoming the recipients of a radically abundant quality of life which would permeate every aspect of their existence.
Since the Host of the banquet is Jesus Himself, He offers Himself as the authentic Bread of Life, the Living Water that quenches and satisfies the deepest needs and desires of the human heart. But like those invited guests, we are simply too busy to participate in this life-transforming celebration with Jesus.
The irony is that the invited guests didn’t have a clue that this invitation to the banquet was the most important appointment they needed to attend. Who buys a field without first looking at it? Especially animals — who buys them without first checking them out? Even the newly married groom could have brought his bride with him to the banquet — even if for a few hours.
But they were all too busy. They all believed they had something more important to attend to.
Unfortunately, we can be efficient in a lot of things in our lives, but not necessarily effective. When we say that we’re too busy, it usually means we don’t have our priorities straight. We think we are busy with important matters, but unless we’ve had our loved ones review and approve our list of “important things to do” we might have disordered priorities.
Ramsey Solutions1 offers a list of eight signs to confirm whether you might be too busy:
- You are always trying to multi-task.
- You are exhausted and overwhelmed.
- You must schedule things well in advance.
- You have a hard time focusing and enjoying the moment.
- You never take time off.
- You feel out of balance.
- You feel guilty a lot of the time.
- You’re filling your calendar with things you don’t even want to do.
If this is you, today is a good day to recalibrate your values and priorities.
The best dish served is not eaten at the table; the best feast is eaten at the feet of Jesus. The best-spent time is not spent acquiring fields, animals or buildings; it is taking time to sit with Jesus. The best place to be is not at the marketplace or the meeting place; it is in the presence of God who is longing to reach out to heal our broken priorities, to redeem our messed-up lives, to save us from our self-centered priorities.
Let’s come to the supper. There is deep nourishment awaiting. Let’s drop what we’re doing and show up!