Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Priorities, Motives & Boundaries

Are you exhausted?  Are you falling into bed each night, wondering where the day went?  Are you frustrated because you feel like you need to either get some help or clone yourself in order to be able to do the day-to-day tasks in your life?  When is the last time you spent quality time with your family (not watching the kids play sports or taking the family on a business trip - I'm talking face-to-face family time with no distractions)?

I get it.  I really, really get it.  I'm the Queen of Over-Commitment Syndrome.  My mentor once told me "Leslie, if you are exhausted or overwhelmed, you are probably doing something God has not asked you to do."  I believe she is absolutely right!  And God is teaching me some tough truths as He allows me, by His grace, to see the motivations behind some of my commitments.  Maybe you can relate?

Let's explore this a bit:
  • You've just been asked to take over a ministry or a committee and even though you know it's more than you can handle, you justify saying yes because you are sure that nobody else will do it, and if they do, they probably won't do it the way you would and that would make things harder for you.  
  • You've just been asked to take on more responsibility at work and even though it cuts into your family time even more, you go ahead and commit to it without even blinking because it might get you ahead in the company.  
  • You want your child to be well-rounded, so you have them in dance class, sports, drama team and they are active in the youth group.  You barely ever see them and usually dinner is on the run, but they will be very prepared for life in the future, so you justify the busyness as a small price to pay for future success in your child's life.

These are examples of decisions we all face every single day.  The question is: How do we know we've made the right decision?  How can we be sure that when we commit to doing something that we are motivated by our heart and not our desire to keep up with others, to prove ourselves, to make more money or to make a name for ourselves? Our heart is so deceitful sometimes.

After hitting the wall about a million times in my life, I'm learning to simplify my life by taking a look at what matters most.  I listed out my priorities.  Here is what I came up with:


Now, once I did this, I began to ask myself some important questions:
  1. What does God think about this? (I pray first...SO important!)
  2. What does my husband think about this? (He is the voice God uses very often in my life to help me balance my life - he sees things clearly when I can get emotionally blinded or selfish)
  3. Will this activity cut into my priorities?
  4. Will this activity enhance time spent with my priorities?
  5. Can I honestly say I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do or is there another motive in there somewhere?
  6. If I do this, what are the possible domino effects down the line in the future?
  7. Are there any other options or creative compromises I can do to make this more feasible in my life?
You see, I'm finally realizing that if my top three priorities get pushed aside in order to fulfill commitments made outside of them, I suffer and so does my family and my relationship with God.  I envision my priorities being protected by a big boundary, like this:


When these things are protected, I can make a much wiser decision.  It's been a difficult transition and I can honestly say I'm really not there yet!  But when I consider the consequences of over-commitment and resulting neglect in my top three priorities, I begin to understand the importance of protecting them. 

When my relationship with God is neglected, everything else falls apart.  My relationship with Him is what fuels me - the love I have for others and the good motivations of my heart to serve others can only come from His love flowing through me.  In my own strength, I become exhausted.

Bottom line: before committing, let's ask ourselves: Is this a good thing or a God thing? It makes all the difference in the world. Just because it's a good thing doesn't mean it's a God thing. Just because you're good at it, doesn't mean you should do it. And just because you are passionate about it, unless it protects your priorities, it's not worth pursuing.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Turbulence

I am not a big fan of flying, but I had to fly this past weekend to go speak at an event in Canada.  On my flight home, I noticed that when the flight attendant was going over the instructions for safety in the flight, nobody seemed to be paying attention.  She was showing how to use the seat belt, where the emergency exits are located, how to use the oxygen masks, etc...but nobody seemed to care.  Some were sleeping.  Others were reading.  Others were talking to the person next to them.  But only a few people paid attention.  I remember wondering if it bothered her that people didn't care what she was saying or doing.  Apparently, they'd heard it all before, or maybe they just didn't think they needed to listen.  Whatever it was, it was odd seeing a woman give so much to a presentation that nobody paid attention to.

Things changed a bit about an hour later when our plane hit some pretty big turbulence, though. All eyes were on the flight attendant!  It's funny - whenever I'm on a plane and we hit turbulence, I immediately begin to pray and then search for the flight attendant.  I mean, she or he has been there - they fly all the time and I can tell by looking at them if the turbulence is anything I need to worry about.  Everyone else feels that way, too, apparently!  Everyone was looking for her.  She was up at the front, walking up the isle and asking if anyone needed anything.  She was cool as a cucumber!  This made me breathe a sigh of relief.  If the flight attendant is calm, it's our cue that we can all be calm, too!

It's interesting how nobody cared what she had to say when we were safely on the ground, in our comfort zone.  Things changed a lot though when things got bumpy about 30,000 feet up in the air! She was the most popular person on the plane at that point. 

I wonder...are there people in your life who you've been sharing the Gospel with who don't seem to care or even pay attention?  I'd venture to say that even though they may seem like they don't care at times, they do notice that you are a Christian.  I'd also venture to say that when turbulence hits in their life, you might be the first person they look to for some stability and calm in the storm.  When we say we are believers, we are in essence letting people know that we believe the Bible is true.  We believe that there is purpose in our pain, and that God is in control.  So, when the turbulence comes, people may look to us for wisdom and answers.  Are we prepared for this?

In the book of 1 Peter, chapter 3, Peter tells us that we need to be ready with an answer when someone asks for the reason for our hope.  And when we answer, we need to do this with gentleness and respect.  Are you ready with an answer?  Do you believe the Bible?  Do you have life experiences where God's faithfulness has gotten you through and you would be willing to share that with those who may be going through the same challenge today?

I only ask these probing questions because I know how hurting people need hope and assurance that only Jesus Christ can bring.  We have the answers they are desperately looking for in their lives.  The answer is Jesus - and the fact that we know Him could mean that God may use us to be a vessel He uses to share His truth with those around us who might be in a panic over the turbulence in their lives.

I pray God will open our eyes to see the people around us the way He does.  I pray He will give us opportunities to share His truth and His hope with others who may be in a very dark and hopeless place in their lives. I pray that when we do reach out to share hope with others, they will see Jesus in us - and that when they see Him, they will enjoy the peace that His presence always brings, even in the midst of turbulence.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

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