Wednesday, December 1, 2010

when enough is enough (some thoughts on tenacity)

For all who find that tenacity sometimes get the better of godliness.

My children are squabbling. My 4-year-old needs his breakfast. My 7-year-old is playing up to get my attention. My 10-year-old has been on the computer too long. My 12-year-old wants me to help her find something. My husband has just asked me a question.

Me? I'm preparing a Bible study / reading a Christian book / writing a blog post / pursuing an interesting train of thought. I need to study a few more verses / finish my chapter (and then another) / get this paragraph right / work out what it is I'm thinking. I've run out of concentration / read more than I can bear / written more than I have time to /twisted my brain into knots, but I know I can finish this off / go one more / get this right / figure this out.

Meanwhile, things are falling apart on the home front, I've worked myself into a state of irritatable exhaustion, and everyone's frustrated because I can't hear a word they're saying.

Tenacity is a Christian virtue. Commitment to relationships, perseverance through suffering, the disciplined pursuit of godliness, a life lived for Christ to the very end - we could all do with more tenacity of this kind:

determination, firmness of purpose, perseverance, persistence, purpose, resolve, steadfastness.

Tenacity is not a Christian virtue when it shades into this set of synonyms:

inflexibility, intransigence, obtinacy, stubbornness, wilfulness.

In my case, it's blended with a few other character traits (I'm sure you can come up with your own):

  • tenacity - the stubborn determination to get something done, however long it takes
  • perfectionism - a commitment to getting everything exactly right, whatever the cost
  • vagueness - the academic's ability to ignore everyone and everything around them while pursuing a line of thought
  • workaholism - an inability to trust God and rest.

Hmmm...sounds just a little too familiar...

A few months ago, after a week of this, I knew something had to change. I went for a walk, sat by the lake near my parents' place, stared out across the water, and prayed. I asked God for a little more wisdom, a little more trust, a little more rest. When I returned to the car, I wrote a new resolution in my journal:

Enough is enough. The world won't fall apart just because I don't push myself as hard as I can. It's time to listen to the small voice of conscience saying "Get off the computer and rest", "Stop reading and serve", "Put it aside until later". Learn when to stop. Trust God. Everything and all is in his hands. Rest in his love, grace and sovereignty. Recharge. Refuel. Take refuge.

Because sometimes enough is enough.

Synonyms are from combined with definition from

images are from khrawlings, Dana Lookadoo - Yo Yo SEO and Cuba Gallery - Now on Twitter! from flickr


Tasmanian said...

This sounds so much like me it is frightening. Thanks for this post.

Valori said...

Good post, Jean! You know how to capture things in your writing! I have just had one of those days and I told my husband when he got home that I'm not going to look at email anymore tonight (but I did read one when everyone was upstairs).

In recent years I have become more and more convinced that it is better, more peaceful, and sometimes takes more faith to be "all there" in whatever I am doing. There is a time for email, a time for writing, a time for study, a time to take time to listen to and enjoy my children, a time to sit and rest with my husband. I find I am constantly multi-tasking and not just multi-tasking, but multi-multi-multi-tasking. And then I wonder why my soul is not at rest. Hm-m-m . . .

Jean said...

Thanks, Tasmanian and Valori.

That's a helpful way of looking at it, Valori. Tell me, does it get any easier in the next stage of life? :)

I know I won't necessarily have more time once all the kids are at school (so everyone tells me!) but I'm hoping I will have more discreet time - that is, time when the kids aren't around so I don't have to do 2 things at once (e.g. alternating writing and giving Andy attention). So, for example, I can set aside a couple of hours for writing when he isn't around and concentrate just on that.

But maybe it's all a happy dream and things don't necessarily get that much simpler once kids are at school...

Certainly the battle with self will go on, and I like your suggestion of one thing at a time.


Lindsay said...

Thank you Jean. I have been reading your posts for a few weeks now and you always leave me encouraged. I too struggle with perfection and your thoughts have been so helpful. I also have to learn to just let go and let God - I'm never going to be perfect, and that's okay - and even if this specific project/task isn't perfect, as you say, the world won't stop. So thank you very much! It must have been God who brought me to your blog because I found it while searching for Hallowe'en crafts(or something like that!) at work. I'm glad I found you! :) God bless!

Jean said...

Welcome to the blog - not sure how you got her via Halloween crafts!! :D - but lovely to have you all the same!

Valori said...

Does it get easier in the next season? Hm-m-m . . . I think for me it got harder because I was home-schooling 3 high schoolers and a 1st/2nd grader while trying to care for a newborn/toddler. :) But I think having them in school will at least give you that predictable amount of "thinking" time you need! Like you said, there is always the battle with self, and I think ultimately we need to pray and ask God to give us wisdom and direction and allow him to direct our lives and desires. What month does school start for Andy?

Jean said...

Hi Valori! Next year (February) Andy goes to pre-school (for 4 year olds, about 12 hours a week spread over 3 short sessions); the year after, it's school. Probably very different to America!

I'm not sure life is ever simple once you're past early adulthood (and only then if there are few complicating issues). May God enable us to trust him and to serve him with wisdom and joy.

Love Jean.

Michelle Cox said...


Glad to have stumbled across your blog...what you write about here really resonates with me.

Hope to be back and read more of your posts. I am a mother of two teens. I am finishing a degree and hope to get a full time job soon...It hasn't really gotten easier for me, only harder. There is always something interrupting me.

If you get a minute, check out my blog. I write about many of the same issues you are describing here. I'm putting your blog on my Good Reads list!

God bless :)