Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Tomorrow is the first day of summer. And despite the crippling heat and humidity in Central Florida, I love summer.

It's a time of slowing down. Afternoon swims, and early morning beach adventures.

It's taking on a special meaning for me this year, as I am coming out of a period of exhaustion and hopelessness.

It's no less busy, probably more so, but the busyness has new meaning. This is JT's wildest season, as he prepares to lead a team of 30 20 (or so) year olds to USLA regional competition next month. This means hours of training, fundraising, and ploys for sponsorship. It means mass hotel bookings and planning for time off. It means he is still getting paid for a 40 hour work week, but he often leaves the house at 6 am and does not return until 6 at night during the work week. Then spends hours on his days off doing more work. Sometimes while he is also watching the kids while I'm at work.

The days and the weeks are flying by, and it feels like summer will end in an instant.

But, crazily, I don't feel overwhelmed anymore.

I feel: purpose. Connection, and meaning, and drive. When I got outside, and I hear the birds singing in the mornings, there's electricity. Excitement. Possibility. When I rock my 2 year old to sleep at night, I study the dimples in his hands, the never-gone dirt underneath his fingernails from hours of exploration, and I feel: complete, and satisfied. Soaring above the drudgery of this world.

That was the most striking thing about these tired and dark past few months. Stepping outside and hearing the birds. Holding my sons close, and trying to feel something. Knowing love and believing in hope. But feeling nothing.

This week, I was blessed to read a pamphlet written back in 1967 by Charles Hummell called "The Tyanny of the Urgent." During this busy time in which I constantly feel like I am letting someone down, forgetting something, or leaving something undone, it spoke deeply to my heart.

One of the most important things I have realized is that I cannot please everyone. It is absolutely impossible. I've accepted that, at least today. And I need only answer to God in completing the things that are most important, not the most urgent. Someone will always have something urgent that I need to do. Often, that someone is me. But every day God has given me enough time and energy and heart to do the things that He has called me to do.
During Jesus's ministry, He did not heal everyone. He did not do what everyone wanted Him to do, and He wasn't everywhere at once. He spent many a long day doing hard work, and He was certainly physically exhausted, but He was confident, despite all that was left undone: that He had completed what He was called to do.

"Not hard work, but doubt and misgiving produce anxiety as we review a month or year and become oppressed by the pile of unfinished tasks. We see uneasily that we may have failed to do the important. The winds of other people's demands have driven us onto a reef of frustration. We confess, quite apart from our sins, "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done."

"It is not God who loads us until we bend or crack with an ulcer, nervous breakdown, heart attack, or stroke. These come from our inner compulsions coupled with the pressure of circumstances."

-Charles Hummel

How true I have found these words to be. And what a relief it has been to take that heavy load of expectations off of my back. God is a not a harsh taskmaster. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. Which doesn't mean that our days won't feel like a whirlwind sometimes. But it does mean that, as we look back over them, at all that we left undone, but all He did through us: we can have peace at the completion of it.

"Ironically, the busier you get the more you need a time of inventory, but the less you seem to be able to take it. You become like the fanatic, who, when unsure of his direction, doubles his speed. And frenetic service for God can become an escape from God. But when you prayerfully take inventory and plan your days, it provides fresh perspective on your work."

-Charles Hummell

I have had to make the conscious decision to halve my speed lately.

I've been cleaning out the junk drawers, throwing away all those extra toys and things that clutter up my mind and make the walls feel like they're closing around me. It feels really good.

Relationships are less intimidating now that it doesn't feel like just one more person demanding something of me. I have the freedom to say no if it's not the most important thing God has called me to do today. Even if it's something that sounds really good or feels very urgent.

I also have more freedom to say yes. Yes to playing monster trucks or the pile of new books that our neighbor gave us on the floor, or having a long phone conversation with a good friend, even if it means I have to put the kids on and ignore the unfolded laundry.

I almost went back to work full-time again.

We've been struggling to find balance and wisdom and direction, and part of that- we feel quite certain- is going to mean me going back to work full-time in the near future. I've struggled a lot with that, and I know that's been part of my depression. I never wanted to be a working mom, at least not on paper. The hours I've spent away from home that I will never get back already pile up on my conscience and almost drown me some days. That is not from God.

No matter how many mother's day sermons about the importance of the stay at home mom barrage my soul, the message I receive from them, though not discounting the many important things other people who have been called to be at-home moms fulfill, is not from God.

The true message, when I tune out those voices is this: I have called you to be different. Stop looking around and comparing. Do today what I have made you to do.

Be fully at work when you're at work. Serve Me there.

Be fully at home when you're at home. Serve Me there.

And gone is the condemnation, and filled instead, anew, with meaning in every morning.

I was willing to go back. I put it out there for God, and I told Him I will go. I will leave houses and children, and the many ways I think I can help my husband on these extra days off, and I will follow You.
And God said: "Good."

And then He said "it's not time yet."

And so there is peace. Peace in knowing that I can enjoy this season without guilt and shame.
Peace in knowing that tomorrow, in the next season, I can live fully in that too.

And in the meantime, it was pretty fun 2 days this week driving off to work with the boys waving at me from the sidewalk, with all those curls and no clothes: "bye, I wub you!" Safe with Daddy. All boy mornings of going to the beach, eating lemon scones at Starbucks, and juicing everything in the refrigerator.

And today it will be fun writing on the courtyard with sidewalk chalk and making water balloons, and even folding the piles and piles of laundry that build up when I'm at work.

I know JT's tired, though out of compassion for us, he barely shows it. I'm praying that he too can see the meaning in all of this rushing around. It's not for nothing, and it is enough, when we keep our eyes on what's really important.

Goodbye to the tyrannical reign of the urgent. Hello to the liberating reign of the Important.

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