The prime sickness at my beloved campus is the idol of perfection. Someone once commented to me that at a campus like Dook just down the street from us, it’s okay to be super-nerdy as long as you’re super-intelligent. But at UNC, there’s not only the academic pressure (which is admittedly less than at a school like Dook) but there’s also the social-polish pressure to be put together.
What this creates is a culture where perfection is the goal. All attempts that fall short of that, however well-intentioned, just aren’t good enough. And, of course, that’s the catch with all attempts at perfectionism. It’s never enough, is it?
What this leads to for some folks is the frantic grasping for the un-attainable goal of perfection. Which, of course, means that many of my students are very, very busy. They’re involved in every possible club that they can join. They write honors theses. They play intramural sports. They go to formals and attend various Christian meetings.
If you are an important person living the Carolina Way, you are busy. To be un-busy is to be un-important. No one wants that.
Several years ago I read a book by one of my mentors, Eugene Peterson. In one particularly prophetic passage he wrote about his visceral reaction to a magazine called “The Busy Pastor.” Busy, he argued, was not and should not be the adjective of choice for any pastor. A pastor is to not only speak the words of the gospel to the culture, they are also to embody the words of the gospel. A part of that, he argued, was to live a counter-cultural life that battled fiercely against a culture that equates busyness with importance...often with tragic results.
So here’s the reality: I’m overly-busy right now. April is always a frantic wind up to the end. We’re three weeks out from wrapping up another school year—my third at UNC, my twelfth on InterVarsity staff overall. And I want to spend these last weeks meeting up with students and wrapping things up. But it’s hard and time is getting short. I want to be available and accessible for important conversations that need to be had. But the preamble to many requests to meet goes something like, “I know you’re really busy but I was wondering if…”
Busy is not the adjective I want to describe my life. It does right now. Maybe I just have to be okay with setting up shop in the land of “busy” for a season…I just hope I don’t end up living here.