May 28, 2014
Have you ever said that?
Don’t deny it. Tasks and appointments seem to bear offspring when you aren’t looking. “I want to do this. I want to try that.” Life feels like a long-distance sprint. And on sprints you don’t get those hydration stations to help you along.
Why do we take on so much? Is it ego? Do you feel, on most days, that you did not get to everything you wanted to do? Why do we feel driven? Why do we put accomplishment so high on the list?
Multiple reasons come to mind. Our perceived identity comes into play. We want to stack up well against others. We want to feel that we are significant.
A wise man who lived a long time ago, probably Ignatius, wrote: “A busy man must make up his mind to do what he can, without afflicting himself if he cannot do all that he wishes. You must have patience and not think that God our Lord requires what man cannot accomplish.”
In my more sane moments that truth refocuses me. I have often said that if there’s too much to do, then either I am not very good at managing my time, or am trying to do things that God has not called me to do. Wonderful advice, right? Discerning this is usually difficult though.
Expectations come from within and from without.
Some are real. Some are perceived. Regardless of the source, they have power. Sometimes we are not even fully aware of those expectations or at least are unsure of their source. Probably the most persistent, insistent, and relentless expectations come from ourselves and what we think others expect. Indeed, if those expectations are what we think others carry for us, aren’t they also self-imposed expectations?
Ignatius (or whoever the writer was) went on: “There is no need to wear yourself out, but make a competent and sufficient effort, and leave the rest to Him who can do all He pleases.” We have trouble knowing what effort is sufficient. Usually we believe that if all the tasks did not get checked off, then the effort fell short.
Am I arguing for lazy haphazardness? No. A work ethic deficiency increasingly manifests in our culture. True rest, though, seems almost un-American. It is a constant challenge to know how to balance the rhythms of life. Have you ever said this: “I can sleep when I’m dead”? That elicits laughter. It is usually said ruefully, but sometimes semi-seriously. In other words, “I have many important things to do, and sleep is secondary.”
Your immune system craves the sleep cycle. As powerful as I might think I am, sooner or later the loss of sufficient sleep will hurt me. A corroded and dysfunctional immune system will not do what you need it to do when the crisis comes.
Another wise man once wrote,
“It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, eating the bread of toil; for he gives sleep to his loved ones.” Psalm 127:2
Why do I think I am so important? Why do I place such significance on a completed to-do list? Why this urge to make sure other people approve of my accomplishments? Who, or what, am I serving?
When we say “there are not enough hours in the day”, fundamentally we are questioning the wisdom and provision of God. We have taken on something that was not ours to take on. We are trying to fill some need that either does not need to be filled, or which we are trying to fill in a distorted way.
Calling is one thing. Drivenness is another. Cultivate that inner peace and rest, by trusting everything to the One to whom you will give account. He is a much better record keeper than you are.
It is good to remember that everything does not depend on me.
How do you deal with the pressure to perform and to clear your to-do list? How do you deal with false expectations, whether from within or from people around you?