I’ve started to realise that there is a lot I cannot do, and that the little I can do is better if I intersperse it with afternoon naps.
I am aware that, in an achievement-and-output-driven world, this sounds like an outrageous confession. Our society conditions us to use our time efficiently, to multi-task and seize every opportunity that comes our way. Affirmations pummel us through the airwaves—I am an unstoppable force of nature!—and even in our one-minute Bible devotions—I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me*. Really, Paul? Really?
We live on adrenaline and coffee, and use Apps like Todoist to juggle multiple commitments into busy schedules. We eye out those who appear to do it all effortlessly—careers, hobbies and volunteering at the local baby shelter. If they can do it, why can’t we?
So, we wake up earlier, run a little faster and say ‘yes’ to one more commitment.
And then one day, if we’re lucky, we come to our senses. That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago. I realised that under the pretext of serving God and others, I was beginning to lose some of the most vital things in my life.
To begin with, my busyness was impacting the time I spent with God. Mother Teresa said, ‘Pray for me that I not loosen my grip on the hands of Jesus even under the guise of ministering to the poor.’ How easy to be so busy serving Jesus that we don’t have time to talk to him. Such service will be of little value. Paul had that right — what we do for God needs to be done in Christ’s strength.
I’ve found God’s voice to be a quiet, gentle voice. I hear it best sitting silently under my Tipuana tree or strumming my guitar to a worship song. When I slow down and turn my thoughts to Him, taking time to reflect on something he impresses on my heart, I often catch snippets of his whispers. Rushed, out-of-context one-minute devo’s seldom do it for me. It is in the quiet spaces that I hear God’s invitation to me, that one call he would have me make, that one act of love he prompts me to do, that one prayer he reminds me to pray. It’s never a long list requiring an App to manage it all, rather it’s usually one small step.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
Another vital thing I was beginning to lose was focusing on what I believe is my deepest calling: writing. Getting too busy with mentoring other writers, creating social media posts, even ensuring the dogs had regular outings to the park, kept me from what gives me the greatest purpose and joy. Not only didn’t I have enough time for it but—even when I made time—I found my writing lacked life and ‘flow’. The busyness and strain of my days was stealing my creative mojo.
I have started to say no, even to good, worthwhile things. I now take the invitations I receive—to speak, to train, to mentor—to God and see if he is inviting me to do these things. I look closely at my motives for saying yes. In taking on tasks am I people-pleasing, impression-managing or just plain showing off? I am also dealing with the deeply entrenched belief that I am a vital cog in the wheel and that God’s work is under threat if I don’t empty my inbox every night. I am admitting to myself that I have limits. I am giving time and space for God’s love and life to flow into me, so that I have something of value to offer those around me.
And importantly, I am switching my phone to silent, reading plenty of good books, taking naps and then—refreshed—tackling the joyful work of writing my next novel.
*Philippians 4:13 – this often-quoted verse should be read in the context of the chapter to gain a better understanding of it.