Wednesday, March 3, 2010

busyness, burnout and the grace of God (1) introduction

"Funny, perceptive and inspirational, this is the adventure of a lifetime, proving that the modern woman can have it all: a high-flying career, a wonderful family life and New York". (from a book blurb quoted in supermum)
She's living the dream. She has her career. She has her family. She has (wait for it ...) New York. Well, you and I might not have New York, but let's add something else in there: ministry. Career, family, ministry - oh, and leisure. It sounds like a modern Christian woman's ideal life, doesn't it?

Except somewhere along the way, this view of life just isn't possible. Something has to give. It might be ministry, it might be family, it might be career, it might be leisure; but you can't pour 4 time-intensive roles into a single life and expect no cracks to show.

I haven't attempted the career bit since having kids (for most mothers this starts when their kids are all at school, although not for me if I can help it - more about that another day!) but I've certainly attempted far too much ministry outside the home while raising 4 young children. I know how that feels and what it costs.

I find busyness very tempting. It's hard just to keep on top of the tasks which are part of daily life - cleaning, cooking, washing clothes, buying groceries, getting the kids to school on time - but when I'm not doing a lot more than this, I feel like a failure. Other women are achieving so much more! So I add another activity to the tottering pile.

Over-busyness is sometimes unavoidable - for example, for single mums, or mums with very young children - but it's usually driven by our choices and desires.

  • We want to prove ourselves, to gain others' respect, to meet their expectations.
  • We want to make sure that our life has some significance.
  • We want to achieve as much as that woman over there.
  • We're frightened of wasting the precious years.
  • We don't know how to say "no", or how to disappoint people.
  • We only feel significant when we're busy, working hard, and getting things done.
  • The busyness creeps up without us noticing, and we don't know how to stop.
Two years ago I found myself at the start of a new season. My youngest child was fresh out of babyhood, and we weren't planning to have any more. I found myself with a few spare moments, a heart full of dreams, and what felt like hundreds of beckoning opportunities.

During the coming weeks I'd like to tell you the story of what happened next, and what I learned about busyness, stress and the grace of God.

image is by hansvandenberg at flickr


Jo said...

This post describes me very well. When my youngest started school. I was leading a woman's bible study group, took up two days a week work and then later that year took on the task of heading up the children's ministry for a new service that our church was about to begin and tried to support my husband as he lead a growth group which meets in our home. That on top of running around after 3 kids, trying to look after them and our home. Needless to say that I have been trying to undo my 'zealousness' ever since and regain a right balance and perspective in my life. I have always struggled with being comfortable with just being. Always needing to do, probably from a combination of many of the motivations that you have mentioned. I'm thankful that God is continually patient with me and continually teaching me grace anew. I need to keep speaking truth to myself...that my identity and worth are in Jesus alone. Really looking forward to reading more of your posts in this series.
p.s. Have been a reader of your blog for nearly a year now (found you through the equip book club), but this is my first comment. Just want you to know that you have been a huge encouragement to me...Thankyou :)

Jean said...

That's amazing, Jo! You sound like a kindred spirit. "Needless to say that I have been trying to undo my 'zealousness' ever since and regain a right balance and perspective in my life." Amen sister. In fact, amen to all your wise reflections. Thank you.

Sara from Germany said...

Dear Jean- I see you wrote 'Kindred Spirit'!! Now I just have to post a comment. I wanted to two times before, but then didn't because I thought what I wrote wasn't really worth while. But now I have to, because 'Kindred Spirit' is such an Anne-ish expression (Anne of Green Gables is my ever favourite character in fiction), and the funny thing is that I stumbled across your blog by accident an hour ago and I've been clicking myself through old and recent posts, basically thiking: oh, I like this woman. I'm sure she's a Kindred Spirit! :)
So- I have to tell you that I really enjoyed reading some of your entries in all their honesty and freshness. And many times I could relate really closely to what you wrote. I just found out that you're taking a break from the blog, but there's three years of archives for me to rummage. ;)
I don't know you, but in a way I feel like I do (which is probably what 'Kindred Spirit' is trying to describe), so I really wish that God will bless you so much in whatever you'll be doing this year. And you've just been a blessing to me. So there, I wrote a lot after all!

Jean said...

Thanks, Sara, lovely to hear from you; and lovely to know that my blog is still making friends around the world. Happy reading! :)