May 3, 2013

Leaving Too Much Behind

When I sit down face-to-face with a more seasoned pastor's wife or more experienced mother, I don't often ask her for ideas on what more I can do or what else I could add to my plate. The truth is that my plate cannot contain what is already there and everything piled on top of it is running together into one glob of busy. I err on the side of doing, or more accurately on the side of doing too much, so I certainly don't need more.
Because I err on the doing side and because I have the terrible disease of perfectionism, it's taken me a while (and many conversations with seasoned pastor's wives) to learn to recognize when I am entering the danger zone of Too Much. There should be an app for that--an app that trips an alarm when the physical, emotional, and spiritual limits are strained and about to burst--similar to the Code Red app my husband has on his phone. App or no app, I've learned that when I am severely lacking joy, when I don't want to talk to another person, when I'm daydreaming of laying on a beach somewhere, or when I'm simply going through the motions just trying to survive until bedtime, I've entered into Too Much. 

In ministry, it's fairly easy to arrive at Too Much. And it appears equally as difficult to leave. However, I've discovered that my life, my family, my ministry, and my relationship with God depend on my ability to leave Too Much and stay within healthy emotional and physical boundaries.

Here's what I'm still very much learning about how to do that:

I acknowledge that I am not God by resting.
Most of the time, my struggle to leave Too Much stems from guilt-- feeling guilty about saying no, feeling guilty about making time to rest, and feeling guilty when I'm actually resting because I tell myself I should be doing something else. However, I am a finite person and the Lord has given rest not only as a command but a gift, a way of acknowledging that we need. It's an act of dependence. And it's an act of trust: Lord, I am not responsible for everything and everyone, but You are. In my rest, I trust that you are still working. 

I must rest well.
Reading People magazine at Barnes & Noble is fun, keeps me updated on the oh-so-important Hollyweird world, and shuts off my brain for a bit, but it does nothing for my soul. But when I spend time with my husband or a friend, when I write, when I read good books, or when I play softball, I feel like my soul is singing sunshine. These activities aren't necessarily spiritual activities, although some actually feel like an act of worship, but they often lead me to enjoy God. 

I have to plan rest.
Soul rest doesn't happen by accident. I have to first know what stirs my affections for Christ. Then I have to choose these things on purpose, which means I must make time for them by planning ahead, which also means I have to say no to mostly good things in order that I can feed my own soul. 

There is joy in margin.
Sabbath rest never fails to lead me right back to doing but it keeps me from arriving at Too Much. Instead, rest helps me delight in where I am and what I'm doing. It feeds my joy.

In ministry, you can be as busy and overextended as you want. No one will guard your soul from Too Much except you. How are you doing in this area? What have you learned about rest that you could share with us all?