If you read my most recent post, you are aware I have been ill for a few days. It is nothing serious. Just a cold which made its way down into my chest along with some aches and pains and tiredness. However, I am feeling better. In fact I feel well enough to start posting again.
Illness has a way of getting me to slow down just a bit from the normal pace of life I keep. Not that I am overly busy. I had already moderated my activities considerably in the past year. Yet still, life does get demanding, given the pressures of work, church and doctoral research, and the desire to stay connected to family and friends. The much slower pace of the last couple of days has reminded me of the importance of margin and perspective. There are some things that can wait. Others require attention even in the midst of illness. My relationship to God, my family and even my close friends must continue to receive attention. Work can take a temporary break, made possible by an understanding employer. Church can take a break — I hear those gasps out there. It’s okay. I haven’t backslidden, so relax. :) — at least for awhile. Besides, it is done with the full awareness and support of my pastor. It pays to have a positive relationship with the leadership. Hobbies definitely can wait too, as demonstrated by my having set them aside for a season.
My point is that slowing down due to illness reminds me of the most important priorities. It calls to attention those things which should always be at the forefront of my attention, no matter the station of my life, ill or healthy. Remembering what is most important gives me a focused perspective, which in turn inspires healthy margin. Perhaps this is why I found a way to attend my niece’s debut lead performance in a ballet, rather than a regularly scheduled church meeting on June 1. Perhaps it is why I call my mom frequently and visit her as often as possible, although there are other interesting things I could do with that time, albeit none so interesting that they could turn my attention from my love for my mother. Perhaps it is why I am learning to grow less concerned about what some may think of me when I turn down what appears to be great opportunities for specific tasks or roles. I ask myself how each opportunity fits into the purpose God has given me. It is a matter of prayer, thought, margin, purpose, and resolve. There are many good things I could be doing. But what is best? Specifically, what is best for this season in life?
Some of my readers are pulled here and there by the demands of many. What started as a bunch of exciting opportunities has developed for you into a quicksand of conflicting priorities. And you feel burned out. Let me encourage you with this thought. There is help and hope. You will make it. Map out what needs to be done. Write down your goals and priorities. Do this in prayer and with wise counsel from a few trusted friends. Perhaps your pastor can help with this. If not, then maybe a wise counselor. Then execute the tasks and mark them off one by one. Negotiate extended time frames, if possible and where necessary, concerning tasks which seem to be less of a priority. Then, as you move through this season, begin to think of creating margin in your life. What must you keep doing for the sake of yourself and your family? What activities do you like to do, but you know you can stop for a season in order to create more time? What activities do you simply need to stop? For those who are married, your spouse will give you valuable input. For those who are single, go to your closest friends or perhaps a family member who will be honest with you. Make it a goal to accomplish the following within one year:
1. Get 8 hours of sleep per sleep cycle. (Some of you work graveyard or swing shifts, so that is why I don’t specify a time).
2. Share in Scripture and prayer with family at least 15 minutes per day (for families). For singles, share in Scripture and prayer at least 15 minutes with a friend(s) at least once per week, if not more often. But have personal devotions daily, for all.
3. Exercise regularly. If you do not have time to exercise, then you are overscheduled. Some of you get your exercise at work, which is great. (Eg. When I worked in wood products it was an 8+ hour workout daily.) Most do not, so this is relevant for you.
4. Families should be able to spend some time together at least weekly, if not more. Read Randy Frazee’s books, “Making Room for Life” and “The Connecting Church” for more on this. Singles should seek connection in healthy ways through the week, beyond simply attending church. If you lack time to do this, there may be a lack of balance.
By now a few might be rolling their eyes, thinking, “Oh there he goes again, that single guy who hasn’t a clue about the reality of family life. Well, get over it. :) If my dad could work three jobs for a season to meet the needs of the family and still find a way to share a meal at dinner with us, then I am sure there are ways to redouble the focus on margin and priorities in our lives as well. I can assure you there is plenty to which he said no so that he could spend time with us. The same is true with my mom. So I share based on 43 years of being their son and their nearly 52 years of marriage before my dad passed last August.