Some time ago, I made my weekly escape to Panera Bread to participate in an online parenting class called “Raising Kids to Do Hard Things.” I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but I definitely wasn’t prepared for Greg Harris’ introduction.
He told us to think about our own funeral, to really envision ourselves there in the casket (well, maybe it wasn’t that morbid) and ask the hard question: How do they [your kids] remember you? And don’t just think about it. Write it down. Ugh. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually daydream about my own funeral. And I certainly don’t process it on paper! When I did, it wasn’t all that pretty. There were a few positive things. Things like being loving and kind and maybe even a little bit funny (though I’m never sure if they’re laughing with me or at me.) But then the list went on to some not so reputable traits. Traits like: stressed out, busy, overwhelmed, and irritable. Sigh. Well, this is depressing. I mean who wants to be remembered for being el Groucho?
Then he asked us to write down the answer to the next question: How do you want to be remembered? Well, that’s a bit easier. Isn’t it easier to talk about who we want to be rather than who we actually are? And then came the reality check. If this is who I am and that is who I want to be, if something doesn’t change, this is how I’m going to be remembered. (Another ugh.) But then, Mr. Harris, being the good guy that he is, gave me hope. (Don’t you just love hope? Don’t ever forget that our God is a God of hope!) Here’s his advice: Think about where you want to end up, where you are currently at, and make a plan as to how you are going to get there. And I did.
I made some big changes that day. I asked God to show me the 3 greatest stressors in my life at that time and then I sought to eliminate them. Quickly. And it worked! Now, this might not be advisable if your greatest stressor is your spouse, your boss, or your children. 😉 I’m talking about outside stressors here, not people. No eliminating people, and especially not in a hurry. 🙂
Maybe you aren’t all that you want to be remembered for one day. If so, I want to encourage you to not get discouraged, but make a written road map. Where are you now, where do you want to go, and how do you plan to get there? Maybe you too need to eliminate some things from your life. Maybe it’s a side job that’s pushing you over the edge, a friend or family member that is monopolizing your time, or a church activity that wears you out. Maybe you need to get rid of time wasters and distractions in your life, or delegate more responsibilities to your kids while you focus on the essentials. Only God can show you what those things are and He is more than willing to do so if you are willing to listen.
Just remember this is not a one time deal. Oh no. I may be growing but I certainly haven’t arrived. I still struggle. I struggle with trying to do too much. I struggle with fighting for rest. I struggle with wanting oh so much to do the best thing but oh so often failing. I struggle alright, but in the struggle, there is progress. By God’s grace, I’m moving forward. I’m evaluating and re-evaluating what really is most important in my life and continuing to make adjustments accordingly.
We only have so much time and energy in this life. What are we investing that time and energy into? There is a saying:
“The good is the enemy of the best.”
And it’s true. It’s not that so much of what I was doing was sinful in and of itself. It’s that I was filling my life with “good” things while neglecting the very best things.
For a long time I felt like I had to do it all and that I couldn’t drop anything, or everything would crumble, like a well-rehearsed juggling act. And sometimes I still do feel that way. I mean, I do have responsibilities and they are not going away anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I have to do it all.
We only have to do what God calls us to do. And whatever that is, it includes His call to rest. As a single mom who is trying to make ends meet now and save for a future alone, I am comforted by the miraculous provision of God in the story of the widow’s oil. You can find it in 2 Kings 4:1-7. Here’s a summary:
The poor widow lost her husband and the creditor had come to take her two sons in order to cover her debt. She sought out Elijah, the prophet.
“What do you have?” asked Elijah.
“Nothing except a jar of oil,” she replied.
And what do you know, Elijah didn’t say, “That’s all?!” and proceed to give her a lecture and tell her she should have planned better. He didn’t tell her, “Well, that will never be enough. What were you thinking?!” No, the prophet of God tells her to go get all the empty jars she can from her neighbors and bring them in. Then he told her to start pouring. She poured and she poured and she poured. Many jars were filled from the one jar she had. The widow was able to sell the oil, pay her debts, and have enough to live on. Isn’t it just like God to take what we have and multiply it in a supernatural way?
I wonder what would have happened if the widow had not sought out Elijah and instead sat at home worrying and fretting and trying to figure out how to get out of the situation on her own?
Don’t feel like you have to do it all, friend. God delights in our active faith in Him and sometimes that means resting and watching to see what He will do instead of trying to do it all ourselves.
What about you? What is God calling you to let go of? I found for me that often times I actually already know before I even ask. I just don’t want to do it. I’m scared or I’m selfish or I’m just plain stubborn. But He is so patient and loving and I eventually come around and lay it down. And do you know what? I never regret it. And neither will you. 🙂
But if we insist upon doing it all, refusing to find the balance of work and play and rest, not only will we hurt ourselves, but those we love the most. You will be remembered, friend. The question is, “How will they remember you?”
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)