I’ve written before about this whole idea of our opportunities versus whether we’re actually called to do something. Oh—and about the true cost of my overcommitment.
And I’m happy to report that I have proudly mastered these concepts in full. And it seems I’ve still got a looooong. Long. Way. To go.
Long story short, this weekend found me sitting for 2.5 hours in the car with three kids—which is exactly as fun as it sounds—because of something to which I overcommitted in the first place. Before I left, I’d had to say no to seeing a friend for the last time before she left for two months; had to say no to a peaceful holiday with my family, despite my worn soul, due to my lack of foresight.
The funny thing, as I reflected in my consternation and yes, tears, is that I didn’t even think about saying no.
I’m amazed at how many Westerners respond to the question, “How’s life?” with, “Busy!” And I’ve gotta loop myself in there. Our spirituality ups the ante of our “opportunities”: Who wants to say no to something God might be putting in our paths?
As painful as this weekend’s lesson was, I’m kinda hopin’ it sticks.
Memos to myself:
- My lack of “no” often stems from greater desires in me. More often than not, I find it stems from my fear. (This article articulates more of the foundational issues behind our overcommitment.) As I’ve written before, there’s often a yawning gap between the person I want to be and the person I am capable of being. Sometimes, my overcommitment is the result of a large view of me and a small view of God.
Getting those desires and questions out front allows me to deal with them head on, rather than be railroaded by them. Author Matt Perman writes, “It is easy to unwittingly fall into the trap of basing our day-to-day peace of mind on our productivity…This is a law-based approach to the Christian life. Instead, we are to act from peace, not for peace.”
I found great communion in a recent blog post by Tsh Oxenreider, a missionary in Turkey. She writes,
I found it odd that God brought me all the way to the other side of the world to, well, raise little kids and manage a home….
No matter where I am or what roles I’ve been given, the point of my life is not usefulness, but in knowing God and enjoying Him forever.
Maybe this accentuates for you, as it does for me, how much our Western culture overlays itself on our Christianity, pressing out results—growth! Numbers! Calendar space!—and confusing our usefulness (valuable as it is) or results with faithfulness or God’s pleasure with us.
- The people I love pay the price of my lack of discernment and courage to draw the line. I’m guilty of thinking of myself, and what I can handle, more highly than I ought. My husband’s words still ring in my head: “I want you to know that sometimes your overcommitment affects how the Gospel is played out in our home.” I love less well, and with less joy. I wonder how many people perhaps have not reached out to me at times in my life because “I think she’s too busy”? Questions and verses that can help me discern:
- Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. What does love require–including the family and relationships to which I’m already committed?
- Shepherd the flock of God that is among you (emphasis added; 1 Peter 5:2). What work can I do that no one else can do in my place?
- 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). Am I choosing this out of peace and prayer, or fear?
- The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you (1 Corinthians 12:21). What cravings does this fill in me…like significance? Which of those desires are legitimate, and which aren’t?
- Margin gives wiggle room for what God can drop in—rest included. Of course God works through our schedule and our commitments, our planned activities. Yet think of God’s commands for the harvesters in the Torah: Leave the corners and edges of your fields for the poor. The goal is not maximum productivity; there is room for others to reap after you; room for generosity.
- I’m asking the wrong questions. Sometimes I’m asking, what if I don’t do this? Maybe I should be asking, What might God be wanting to do in the event I said no? Thinking about “no” is just as essential as thinking about “yes”.
- Choose quality over quality; depth rather than breadth. Africa is kneading into me this idea that relationships and discipleship take time. Expecting them to stay within the bounds of a status update or a snug time slot can project the illusion of loving well when actually I’m largely unavailable. Honestly—sometimes I want commitments as proof of my worth; so I can look back at my week and say, Wow. That’s why I’m so tired. Look at all I did! Or I can form that mental resume proving that I am Doing Something Worthwhile; I am Making a Difference. (Yes. It does sound lame even as I type it.)
- “Making a mistake doesn’t mean you should keep doing the wrong thing.” This was a nugget from my husband this weekend as my eyes swam in exhaustion. If I’ve overcommitted, I can still see if I can gracefully back out or get help so my family and others keep paying the price. Christopher Ash aptly writes in his post The Difference Between Costly Sacrifice and Burnout, “Until God takes us home to be with Jesus, we are to offer ourselves as those who have a life to offer, rather than a burned-out wreck.”
 What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, p. 122.