When I ask people how they’re doing, I usually get two answers. Any guesses?
Lots of people say something like ‘fine’ or ‘good’. But I also hear a lot of things like ‘busy’ and ‘crazy busy’. I used to say that all the time myself. You probably have, too.
I’m guessing that I don’t need to convince you that we’ve got a problem. The real issue is finding a solution.
There are all kinds of practical strategies that can help. But the craziness our family has experienced has also been an invitation to look deeper. We’ve realized that our struggles with scheduling go beyond the obvious things like having a responsible job, four kids, lots of relationships, and too many soccer games.
We’ve gained an important insight from Jesus in Luke chapter 6. After talking about the connection between the health of a tree and its fruit, Jesus draws a similar connection between the health of our hearts (or innermost person) and words: ‘For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks’. In other words, we can look at the way we talk and learn a lot about who we are on the inside. For better, or, for worse.
But, you may be thinking, what in the world does that have to do with our calendars?!
Everything, actually. Just like our speech reflects who we really are, so do our schedules. Like our checkbooks, our calendars reflect what we value and the inner dynamics of who we actually are.
And so, when I glanced back over our Google calendar for all of 2014, I made some interesting discoveries. For example, we only had 5 weekends where we didn’t have a major commitment. And, I could only find 8 things I (apart from my family or work) with others that I found personally energizing.
As I reflected about this, it wasn’t hard to see the overall pattern. When I have to choose – and we always do – I don’t place a priority on rest or developing my own relationships. I believe that they matter in theory, but my 2014 self didn’t reflect that.
But the rabbit hole goes even deeper. As I prayed and reflected, I’ve come to see that this implies some fairly scary things. That I think ‘getting things done’ and tangible results matter more than relationships, which can be pretty ethereal. That I don’t need to respect the limits God has placed on my time and energy. And that I’m so important that life will fall apart if I slow down.
Wow. I’d never encourage the people I pastor to live like that. And I didn’t really see the extent of my own pathology until I took a closer look.
What About Your Life?
Let’s think a moment about your life. Your calendar is probably cluttered, too, but the reasons may be entirely different than mine. Here are some of the usual suspects:
- laziness – we don’t feel like making the effort to establish priorities, so we just do whatever comes up and respond to others’ priorities for us
- fear – we’re afraid of disappointing others by telling them ‘no’, so we say ‘yes’; or, we’re afraid of making bad decisions so we don’t make any until the last possible minute (which, of course, is a decision)
- pride – in a culture that tells us we can ‘have it all’, we hate the idea that we’re severely limited in terms of our time, energy and abilities.
- hopelessness – we have so many balls in the air that we can’t imagine things could be different. We feel like victims.
I’m sure you can think of others. More honestly and importantly, though, all these things point to a lack of faith and trust in God. We’re not so sure he can give us lives that are filled with right the kind – and amount – of commitments and relationships.
But, these are the real, deeper reasons our calendar gets cluttered.
A Strange Source Of Encouragement
All this is strangely encouraging, though. When we face where – and who – we really are, with God’s help we can make progress.
‘If my people… humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will… forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14). When we confess our faults and have an honest conversation with God, he heals us and makes us whole.
And so, when I find myself racing around and ignoring friendships and down time, I take a moment to admit it and ask God to forgive and help me. Over time, I’m changing slowly and it’s trickling down to my calendar, where I’m finding more time for friends and rest.
With a little reflection, honesty and faith in God’s work in your life, you can experience progress, too.
Question: Take some time and reflect on your life and calendar. What are the deeper reasons for the craziness and overcommitment in your life?