Hustle. To me it’s a word that has always meant to hurry. My dad (ever the sports coach) would always tell me I need to hustle. It meant I needed hurry up and get whatever I wasn’t doing at the moment done.
Lately I’ve seen the word hustle showing up in social media, books, and blogs. The point of all these posts is to help the full time employee (most of us) get over the hump and finally write that book/finish that project/accomplish that dream that we’ve always been wanting to finish. What’s needed, we’re told, is not a new trick, but more hustle.
This type of hustle isn’t always working faster like my dad use to tell me. This hustle is working hard to bust past the opposition that life undoubtedly throws at us. Learn to work a little bit harder, get up a little bit earlier when there are no distractions, watch less TV, and focus on those projects that no one knows about but you. The gospel of hustle is that hard work and focus will accomplish what your current pace could not.
So, lately, as I’ve been looking at my life and thinking about trying to cross off some things the Lord has been asking me to do, I’ve been tempted to take the hustle approach. Some of the productivity approaches of others have made their way into my routine. And as someone who is a son of God, a husband and father, a church planter, a full-time employee, and is trying to write a book* and blog posts, there is a lot to get done. Hustle has a lot of appeal.
The problem with hustle, at least for me, is that its costly. For me hustle causes me to focus on tasks instead of people in my life. The first place that typically shows up is my relationship with God. Hudson Taylor wrote “Do not work so hard for Christ that you have no strength to pray, for prayer requires strength.” So when I’m burning the candle at both ends, inevitably my prayer life suffers.
From there, I become more focused on tasks and marking off lists. I get so preoccupied with “Getting Things Done” that I do it at the expense of the people I try to get things done for. And while I help people in the process, Paul tells me if I can do all things but don’t have love in my heart for them, my works are pretty much useless.
One more problem with hustle: It’s typically presented in a selfish manner. It’s what you need to get done to find your fulfillment. Get your book written. Water that part time gig you’re doing on the side (the side-hustle) ’til it becomes full-time. Find fulfillment in what you can do for you. This makes others’ needs that pop up (at least in my mind) obstacles to my fulfillment.
But Christ told us the way to find our life was to lay it down.
So, I want to propose a different kind of hustle. This hustle is where you put Christ above everything else. We give Him the ability to set the agenda. We practice love where we lay down our life for others. It sets others’ needs above our agendas. It trusts in God’s work that happens when we sleep and because of this, we can rest (Mark 4:26-28). It’s a hustle that relies first on prayer, then on doing what we can, when we can.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t work hard. You may still get up a little earlier and work to stay more organized than you are. Productivity hacks will have their place. They just won’t be the Lord of your life.
You will probably get your pet projects done slower. Things that seem like a priority to almost everyone else may take a back seat. In many ways, people will think that you aren’t working as hard as you can. The hardest part of this kind of hustle is that it will look unproductive to those around you and, truth-be-told, maybe even to you.
But that’s what we’re called to: an upside down kingdom where we look like we’re in last place. It’s the kind of hustle that will be rewarded in the future for putting ourselves last. It’s gold that will last through fires of persecution and hardship, because it’s fueled by love and faith in God, not in loving and trusting ourselves.
It’s a different kind of hustle.
*Yes, if you’ve carefully read this post, you’ve noted I am currently writing a small book/e-book. I hope to have a rough draft by the end of the year and get through editing and packaging the book sometime next year. More on that in a later post.