Thursday, December 2, 2010

busyness, burnout and the grace of God (10) superwoman says 'yes'

April 2009. I've been saying 'yes' to every ministry opportunity: blogging, writing, speaking. I've just raced in the door after school-pickup, half-way through a term crammed to bursting. I watch myself with a kind of awed fascination. How many balls can I juggle before they fall to the ground? I'm about to be presented with another ministry opportunity I'll accept despite the advice of concerned friends: the last ball I get into the air before it all comes crashing down.

I get too busy when I ... try to be superwoman.

What I was thinking. "I can do this whole juggling act! I can keep these balls in the air! Let's see if I can fit one more thing in! Other women can manage it - why not me? If I say 'no' to these opportunities, who knows when they'll come again?"

What I'm learning.
I'm not that woman over there.
Like most women, I'm great at the comparison game! Some of my friends are energetic, extroverted women who raise children, work in challenging ministry jobs, and are far more involved in church and community than I will ever be. Other friends do all this and manage to be respected writers, theologians or conference speakers at the same time. They're my age, and they've achieved so much more than me! It's hard not to compare myself and feel worthless. I need to remember that...

God has made me just the way he wants me to be.
God knows my strengths and weaknesses (he made me!). He knows my energy levels and limitations (he gave them to me). He knows my temperament and the demands on my time (they were shaped by him). He's made me just the way he wants me to be, to do the work he's given me to do. He does nothing without a purpose, and his purposes are good. Rather than hanker after bigger and better things...

I'm learning to trust God and be content.
There are many reasons we can't do as much as we'd like. Some of us struggle with long-term illness. Some of us care for disabled children or sick family members. Some of us are in a demanding season of life, and aren't as physically or emotionally strong as we'd like to be (that's me). May God help us to trust him and to be content, for he's in control of our circumstances, and he is loving and wise.

Love defeats selfish ambition and envy.
What's really behind my longing to be more like my friends is envy and ambition. I see them achieving so much, and I want the recognition and respect that is theirs, and the energy and ease they seem to bring to life. It's time to examine my heart and uproot the bitter envy and self-centred ambition that have grown there. May God help me love my friends with a generous spirit, and to serve those around me even when it's unseen.

Superwoman is a myth.
Superwoman doesn't exist.* My friend isn't superwoman: she's just a sinner with her own struggles, and she has different gifts and has made different choices to me (despite appearances, no-one can do it all!). When I treat her like superwoman, I don't love and support her. I give glory to her rather than to God. I try so hard to be like her that I don't serve the people around me.

'No's give value to 'Yes's.
I'd like to believe I'm superwoman. I'd like to believe I can say 'yes' to every opportunity and do them all brilliantly. I tried to do just that for a while! But when I say 'yes' to everything, I do nothing well. I neglect my primary responsibilities. I'm constantly stressed and on edge. Eventually, things fall apart. Rather than say 'yes' to everything, I'd like to prayerfully and thoughtfully say 'yes' to a few things and do them well.

Life is not a performance and God isn't keeping score.
Grace. Grace. Grace. I can't shut up about it! And that's exactly how it should be. The reason I don't have to achieve everything, or perfect my performance, or despair when I drop a ball (which I do every day!), is the grace of God. I don't have to be superwoman. I don't have to perform. I'm an ordinary sinner justified by grace, not by what I do. When God looks at me, he doesn't see my failure and weakness: he sees me clothed in his grace.

* With thanks to Rachel for the ideas in this paragraph.

images are from garryknight, K. awyer, hansvandenberg30 and Dean Ayres at flickr; 3rd image is from stock.xchng

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