Stop! In the Name of Love…

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Did you know in 2015, the 4th highest selling book on Amazon.com was….an Adult Coloring Book!  Actually, of the top 15 books sold on Amazon that year, 5 of those spots were awarded to Adult Coloring Books!  Just this past week I saw a display of beautifully artistic books just waiting to be colored.  When I saw them my first thought was, “oh that would be so nice,” and my second thought, “what in the world am I thinking…I don’t have time to color!” 

Hello!  My name is Brittany and I am live in Buford, Georgia.  I am a stay-at-home mom to 4 kiddos (ages 3, 5, 8 & 9).  My husband and I are actively involved at our church in children’s ministries and premarital mentoring.  Between the various house chores, doctor’s appointments, school projects, volunteering commitments, and oh yeah…did I mention that we just adopted a new dog…I often feel like I am in a relay race I can’t win.  The goal of peace along with accomplishment seems like a finish line that keeps moving.

A couple of years ago when I was in the trenches of little ones at home with my 4 kids all under the age of 6, my husband tried to give me a compliment by attempting to say that I was a “Proverbs 31 woman” (the bible’s example of the noble or “ideal” woman”), but instead referred to “Proverbs 30” by mistake. I suggested he probably meant “Proverbs 31”, however as he began reading chapter 30, verse 1, “…I am weary, O God, and worn out.” I screamed “Yes! That is me exactly!!! I AM a Proverbs 30:1 woman!”  Can you relate?  

Ladies, what do you think is at the heart of not feeling peace throughout the day?  Do we desire simplicity but also long for a sense of accomplishment?  Do those goals seem at odds with each other?  Why do we have such a hard time making the adjustments to stay balanced?  Here are some of the obstacles that could be at the root:

—Comparison

Social Media has made the comparison game even strong these days but it has been around since Cain and Abel.  In fact, even before these 2 brothers came on the scene, their parents were tempted by Satan to focus on qualities they didn’t possess: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 (ESV).  Until the snake pointed it out, Adam and Eve had not focused on what they might be missing out on.  They were content and comfortable with their abilities and roles in the garden.  Often just being aware of something can breed discontentment.   

—Fear of Missing Out

We all have passions that drive what we enjoy doing with our time.  For me, it is relationships (my love language is “quality time”).  So if an opportunity pops up for dinner with friends I am prone to say “Yes” before I know if I have the time to commit.  Maybe relationships aren’t top on your list.  Maybe it is reading and you have 7 books stacked high on your nightstand.  Maybe your passion is crafts and there are classes that you would hate to miss.  Regardless, we can’t just indulge in those activities without limits. 

—Confusing needs vs. wants

It can often be difficult to remind yourself what is truly a need and what is a desire.  This can creep in even with worthy goals (e.g. kids’ after-school activities or a successful career) that drive us to sacrifice margin in our lives for busyness.  Additionally, our culture is telling us ladies “you should be able to have it all”—perfect marriage, perfect kids, perfect career, perfect house!

—Electronics

I am constantly amazed by how much time my kids will indulge in electronics if allowed (TV, computer, tablets, video games), but then I look at adults and see many glued to their phones, let’s be honest…I am no different.  We live in an information age, where we can find out nearly anything within seconds, which has created a culture of instant gratification.  The problem is that things of true worth (e.g. character, spiritual maturity, strong marriages) require intentionality over long periods of time.  We are quickly turning into a culture that equates “slow” with “bad.”

 

Ok, so how do we overcome these hurdles?  Well, I hate to say it but it is not easy—at least in our own strength.  In fact, it isn’t even natural for us to fall into simplicity and restful living.  God had to mandate it in order for the nation of Israel to even take it seriously.  

 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV)

Notice how specific He got when explaining the intentional rest He desired for the nation.  The Lord knew He would have to explain in detail how to rest in spite of life’s demands.  This level of margin in our lives can often feel inefficient and perhaps even lazy.  But He is our good Father and knows what we need, and He said we need to slow down.  So for a lot of us, that means we need to work at slowing down, possibly by rewiring our brains: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Disciplining ourselves to slow down and add margin in our lives can often seem a little wasteful, but it is needed.  Consider when Jesus tells us in John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (ESV) He is calling us to a relational position, where we are not called to produce the fruit, but to remain “in Him” and allow that reality to transform who we are.  So the act of abiding is both simplistic (in its lack of complexity) and intentional (actively abiding).  We are to keep our focus on Him, and through that straightforward act, Jesus takes ownership of producing the fruit in our lives.  Easier said than done in our culture of constant interruptions and distractions.  So how can we begin to abide?

First and foremost, we need to have that precious time with the Lord in prayer.  When Nehemiah felt the pull to add “General Contractor” to his list of responsibilities and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, he started with prayer and fasting (Nehemiah 1:4).  It wasn’t until 8 months later that the Lord began to honor Nehemiah’s request, and when He did Nehemiah prayed some more (Nehemiah 2:4-5).  Our prayer life is key to knowing how to best manage our time.  Nehemiah began to feel the pull on his schedule from those who wanted to distract him from his God-ordained focus.  Nehemiah knew exactly how he was called to spend his time and it didn’t include entertaining social meetings. 

“ Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm.  And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”  Nehemiah 6:2-3 (ESV)

Are you doing a “great work” right now?  Maybe you are fostering a new child, so you “cannot come down” and help with the church pot luck; or maybe you are mending a broken marriage, so you “cannot come down” and accept the promotion you were given at work.

“YOU are the only YOU this world will ever know, and there is something about YOU that will make something about GOD known in a way that NO ONE else can.” – Dan Allender, (a prominent Christian therapist & author)

What does God have you doing that No One else can do?  How often are you seeking God’s direction in that role?  How are you disciplining yourself to make that a priority?  What are you doing to protect the margin needed in order to do that task well?  

So as we continue to get pulled in myriad directions, let us not forget to slow down, abide in Him, and intentionally craft our week to have the margin for the things that truly matter.  Let’s get out our calendars and pray over them regarding our priorities.  Let’s commit to disciplining ourselves to protect our schedules.  Establish patterns and habits that support this life of simplicity (e.g. early morning devotions, authentic community with like-minded believers) and then celebrate the fruit that invariably comes in the most surprising ways as Jesus demonstrates how much He loves us and those with whom we come in contact.  And perhaps, season by season, we can move from being a Proverbs 30:1 woman to a Proverbs 31 woman!  Who knows, you might even find time for an Adult Coloring Book!

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