I’ve been thinking about how many things constantly vie for my attention when things are “normal”. Here’s a list I started: love and serve my husband and children; manage my home; take care of aging parents; reach out to my sister; invest in my friendships; do my job well; use my gifts in the church; pray for my friends, my pastor, the lost, the world, the President and other leaders; serve and love my neighbors; be a mentor to young women; give sacrificially; serve the poor; evangelize; research the latest issues; be aware of and work to rid myself of bias and prejudice; go on a mission trip…… the list could go on. Now amidst the constant news of the virus and protests and riots, things seem like they’ve ratcheted up to unsustainable levels and there’s no way to keep up.
One thing I consistently fight against is thinking I have to do everything, I have to be everything, I have to passionately care about everything. Because of the Internet and the 24 hour news cycle, our access to what’s going on around the world is unprecedented.
What do you do? How do you keep from being overwhelmed? My go-to-bed reading right now is Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson. I think it’s the third time I’ve read it. She writes about being unable to fall asleep easily because of the swirling thoughts in her head, the constant list of responsibilities and tasks. Her husband is the opposite. He is able to put his head on the pillow and fall asleep. She told her husband how annoying that was and his response hit me like a brick the first time I read it. He says, “That’s because you’re an A+ girl. Me? I’m content with a B+. Just go to sleep.”
I’m an A+ girl too. I’m a perfectionist, a type 1 on the Enneagram, whatever else you want to call it. Is that why I struggle with wanting to do it all?
In her book, Hannah says the problem we have is a lack of humility. I certainly think that’s part of it. Thinking you need to do it all is evidence that you believe you’re some sort of god, a superwoman. The messages of the culture don’t help us with that either. But I think there’s more.
I think humility, knowing our proper place in this world, realizing our limits, needs to be intertwined with wisdom. Wisdom comes from being humble. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
But there’s so much to care about, especially right now. How do I prioritize?
I think the starting point has to be humility, the daily bowing before the King of the Universe and the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul, and relinquishing your grasp, turning over control. You never had it in the first place! You are not God! Every day I need to remind myself of this. I am not omniscient so that means I won’t be able to fully understand everything about this virus and the data associated with it. Should I be informed? Yes! For the good of myself and my family and my community I should be informed. But how much time should I spend digging through various articles and analyzing the data and debating friends on Facebook? How much is too much? That requires wisdom.
I am not omnipresent or omnipotent or omni-anything! That means I have limits and I can’t be involved in every good thing. I can’t effect all the change I would desire. Is that a cop out? No! But it is the truth, and that truth requires me to pray and ask God for wisdom to know what I should be involved in and where I can make the most impact.
When things get overwhelming I find it helpful to look at my life like a concentric circle. I start with myself and God. Bow to him, recognize my place and ask him to search my heart. Then I move out to those closest to me. How can I serve and love my husband and family? Then I move out further to my close friends and church. How does God want me to serve those people? Then I move out to my neighborhood and the wider world around me.
There are times when it’s necessary to make a public stand for certain things like justice and righteousness. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to identify with those who are hurting and I am thinking and listening and praying about what my part could be. But I’m also trying to remind myself that I can’t do everything and God has not called me to do everything.
What has God called me to do right now, today? Most of what he’s called me to right now concerns the circle I’m living in. It concerns those closest to me. Right here is where I can make the most impact. Right here is where he wants me to serve and love and give myself for what’s just and right.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8