Less is So Much More

Sharon Encouragement, Sabbath, Spiritual Health 9 Comments

Busy woman The other day I was having lunch with one of my good friends and she asked me how I was doing. I smiled and told her, “I’m actually doing really well! In fact, this is probably the happiest I’ve ever been!” No sooner did those words escape my lips than my smile changed into a frown of concern as I exclaimed, “I hope it’s not because I’m married!”

I know I’m probably the first woman in the history of the world to utter that phrase. But the idea that getting married would suddenly impact my happiness so profoundly is kind of disturbing to me. If you’d read my blog for any amount of time, you know that idea goes against a lot of what I believe theologically. No person or event should satisfy us in the way that God does. If my quality of life is dramatically improved as a result of marriage, is that an indicator of some unseen idol in my life? Have I been deluding myself all along?

Now obviously it’s a good thing to be married. And this should be a happy time in my life. I should be living it up, as a number of my single friends have reminded me. But in all honesty as much as I do love being married, I don’t think that’s the ultimate source of my extreme happiness. The reason things have been so good lately is that right about the time I got married, I also quit almost everything I was involved with.

Ever since I was in high school I have been over-committed. I’ve been leading too many things for way too long, and I literally haven’t taken a season for myself in 10 years. I think it all culminated this past year when I was a campus minister leading two small groups in 2 different cities and planning a wedding. I was pouring myself out without allowing any time to fill myself up, and I hit a wall. If my life was a line graph, you would have seen a steady decline of spiritual output in 2008-2009, which ultimately ended in a crash. It’s like my spiritual life was mirroring the economy.

So I decided it was time to do some pruning. I quite my job, quit leading my small groups, quit discipling, quit everything. I started from square one. I made up my mind to have very few commitments, so I joined a small group, took on a less intense servant role at my church, and most importantly carved out a very strict Sabbath.

And let me tell you, it has been awesome. The last several years of my life have been defined by a kind of spiritual winter. It’s not that I couldn’t ever feel God, but I wasn’t really growing either. I felt dormant. This is the first time in years that I’ve begun to see the first little signs of spring popping up. I see touches of green everywhere.

It’s funny because this is so unlike me. I am over-committed girl. I tend to cram as much into my day as possible. In my mind, quantity equals effectiveness. The more I do the more I get done. The problem is that the quality was going down the tubes. It’s kind of like my husband’s insistence that he doesn’t need sleep before an exam. He studies all through the night because he thinks that the more time he spends studying, the more he’ll know for the test. In reality, studies show that a good night’s rest is actually more effective than cramming. If your brain is too tired to process the info, the info is worthless.

It’s the same for us spiritually. If our minds and bodies are too tired to process and live out the faith we profess, then we won’t be good for much at all. Plus, whenever I’m busy the first thing I usually cut out is my quiet time. Martin Luther once said that he had to spend 4 hours in prayer each morning BECAUSE he was so busy, and he was exactly right. The more I do, the MORE I need God to sustain me. It’s irrational that I would do the opposite.

So as someone who has crawled out from under the pile of over-commitment and seen the light of day, I have to tell you that it looks pretty good. I’m not as stressed, the quality of everything I do is better, and most importantly I’m recovering my intimacy with God. Don’t pressure yourself to do more than you should. Not only will the quality of your output suffer, but your witness will too. You’ll become tired, grumpy, and lacking in patience. The Gospel deserves better, so take care of yourself. It’s an investment in the Kingdom.

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Comments 9

  1. MJ

    from one over-committed girl to one who is just committed…thanks. I needed this today. I have been feeling guilty for dropping some of my committments, maybe it’s the fear of “what will I do, if I’m not busy!” Your post is a good reminder of what can be, and that the dormancy (which was a PERFECT description!) will go away.

    peace to you!
    MJ

  2. Brittany

    Girl, I must admit, I’m a bit envious. 🙂

    I hope to be able to do that one day… Right now, that season is not possible (gotta pay the bills and finish school first), but one day I hope to be singing a similar tune.

    Enjoy it! Blessings.

  3. Misty

    Do you have any suggestions/encouragement/rebuke/ANYTHING for a college student on this matter?

    I kept a daily quiet time (sometimes more than one) during high school and still do during breaks, but what is a full time student to do? I’ve gotten to the point where I barely do any quiet times or when I do I’m not doing it out of joy, but obligation/striving. I’m not praying much either b/c then through out the day I feel unworthy to call on him for help. I feel like I can’t just be a believer that always wants him to help and serve me, but yet I won’t make time for him. So, my feelings overrule and I usually do not cry out. Then the next time I do have time for a Bible study, I feel a thousand miles away from him.

    Then, sometimes I simply don’t want to cry out. I’m stubborn and prideful and wallow in quilt.

    I’m really struggling with being a student while being a true follower. Though in many ways I do still love being a student, I sometimes just want to quit! I’m like, how is this going to profit the kingdom? It often feels like it is in vain. Why am i here in this nice dorm room studying for a pointless test when there are starving hurting people in the world? And I know there are spiritually starving and hurting people here too…but then I find I’m scared. And selfish. That and the people in America don’t seem to know they need him…or anything for that matter! No poor in spirit-ness. It makes our jobs harder and requires more faith, obedience and courage. I find that for a Christian I have little joy.

    Along the same lines, I’m struggling with finding a balance between self-indulgence and asceticism. I find that I feel guilty if I’m happy, having fun or have nice things. I feel like it’s wrong if I go buy a nice scarf, for example. I do not need it, but simply want it so that I may meet the worlds standards more and be cute. Isn’t that why we like shopping? We truly only need one outfit. And a scarf is only a luxury. So where are we to draw the line between need and want. I’m supposed to care for the poor. I should go get the scarf and then take it down town! It’s so spiritually confusing and I find that pondering and trying to discern how to live my life daily stress me out. I want to be pleasing to him and I know that it’s not by works, but works reflect my heart. It feels impossible to please him sometimes. I fall so short that I end up not even wanting to try.

    Also what did you mean when you said you have a strict sabbath now?

    Thanks!! I’m going through growing pains. 🙂

    Grace and Peace,
    Misty

  4. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Haha I just realized in view of Brittany’s comment that I should clarify one detail! I didn’t quit working altogether. I took a job that was less demanding and stressful than the one I had before. I don’t want to sound as if I had the luxury of just not working whenever I felt like it!

  5. ksiu

    No worries! Your theology is intact. I am single and I too am undergoing similar bouts of joy and happiness over the past couple of months. Be assured that simplification does in fact result in restoration. Love it! It is Spring here too…

  6. Drew Henderson

    Sharon, great and wise words borne of much struggle it sounds like. It makes me think of one word that seems to confound me and many, many people I know and love- sovereignty. If He rules, we can rest. I have not given up on hard work, I’ve given up on fixing everything I can touch.

  7. Amber

    Misty, girl, I understand exactly what you’re going through. I’m a full time student, and just like you, during breaks, my time with God is pretty consistent. However, during the school year, I try to make time, and when I do it’s out of obligation…pretty much everything you’ve said. Sometimes I feel like a joyless, ineffective Christian.

    Going through some intense growing pains too

  8. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Misty, sorry I’m just now responding but here are a few thoughts on what you said:

    First and easiest–by “strict Sabbath” I mean that I don’t study, do work, or even serve at church. I go to a Saturday night service at my church, and since I discovered that I don’t rest very much when I’m on the go at church, I observe the Sabbath on a day when I don’t go to church–sunday. I still drive my car and walk around and stuff (I haven’t gone the way of orthodox judaism) but I’ve been VERY diligent about resting on the Sabbath. No excuses. it makes me work harder on the other days to get my work done, but it’s worth it. And even though it seems crazy right now, life only gets faster and faster, so now is a good time to form time management habits for when you graduate.

    As for being a full-time student, I completely understand. I spent 7 years at Duke getting my butt kicked, but I learned that it was all about time management. Perhaps you’re different than I was, but I wasted a lot of time hanging out in people’s rooms, watching t.v., perusing the internet, etc. It probably amounted to hours of time each day. Then that caused me to put off my school work til late at night, which meant I couldn’t wake up early to read the Bible. It was a vicious cycle.

    One thing I tell a lot of my students is that God *commands* us to observe the Sabbath, to be still and know that He is God. Now He commands us for 2 reasons: 1) He knows it doesn’t come naturally so we have to be told. 2) He will provide. When the Bible was written with those inspired words, God knew you’d be busy and over-loaded, but He commanded us anyways. In fact, He commanded that BECAUSE OF our busy-ness. He knew other things would threaten our time, and He knew we’d get burned out without our time with Him. But all of that to say, sometimes observing the Sabbath and having a daily quiet time takes faith. We have to have faith that if we trust Him with our time, He’ll provide. God isn’t gonna let you flunk out of college because you made an extra 30 minutes every morning for Him.

    Now about the guilt you’ve been having, Misty that is Satan and you need to tell him to get behind you!!! When we’re floundering in our relationship with God, Satan just makes it worse by filling our minds with guilt, pushing us even further from HIm. Even when you feel like the Prodigal Son, the Father ALWAYS wants you to come back to Him. If you let guilt prevent you from running back to God even when you haven’t been seeking Him lately, then Satan wins. That is exactly what he wants you to do. Don’t let him have that victory in your life.

    And finally, self-indulgence v. asceticism: I wanna direct you to a blog post my pastor just wrote about “when do we ever do enough?” Just go to: http://www.jdgreear.com/ and scroll down to “The word ‘enough’ is the enemy of the Gospel.” I think that will answer a lot of your questions.

    But at the heart of this, I can’t say enough that guilt has NO PLACE in the life of God. Jesus died for you so that you are no longer guilty. Conviction is one thing–it challenges you to grow–but guilt is of the Enemy. Whenever you feel pangs of guilt about your quiet time or how you’re living your life, ask God if there’s anything that He wants to teach it, ask for His help in changing, and then let it go. As Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.”

    And make sure you’re enjoying school! I know it’s hard to be in this time of preparation, but that preparation is so important. God is molding you in ways you probably don’t even know right now, so just throw yourself into His refining grace. You are doing great, and God loves you so much, sister!!!!!!!!!!!!

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