I buckled my seat belt across my hips, sat back in my seat and rested my head back on the head rest. I had never been so happy to get on a flight in my life. Sure, I was excited to go to Israel to lead worship for a church group, to see the places Jesus walked; it was the trip of a lifetime. But, I was more excited to just escape. As I put in my headphones and got settled in, I felt myself breathe deeply, because for the next two weeks, I was free. I wonder if you have ever had that feeling of being completely overwhelmed by all your commitments, so much so that you were screaming inside, “Get me out of here!”
The flight to Israel is a long one, leaving me plenty of time to ponder, read and pray. I got out a piece of paper and started writing down everything I was responsible for in my life. I included everything from leading worship at churches, down to feeding the dog. The list grew and grew, and as I looked at the page filled with WAY too much, I closed my eyes and said, “OK, God, this is too much for me. I need to take some things off this list, and I need you to help me. What do you want me to keep, and what do you want me to cross off my list of to-do’s?”
Of course, there are some things we can’t get rid of; I still have to do the dishes, be available for my family, and yes, I still have to make sure the dog gets fed. But my goal in refining this list of responsibilities was to only keep what God really wanted for me and dump the rest. It was tricky! Every responsibility I was crossing off the list meant that someone else would have to pick up where I left off. At first, I felt awful crossing things off the list, but then God changed my perspective. What if I wasn’t dumping these things on other people but actually was handing someone else a great opportunity that they may have been waiting for.
Perspective changes everything!
There were things on my list that needed to remain my job, being there for my family is a job only I can fill. I want to be faithful first and foremost to my family. Everything else should be secondary, yes, even ministry! Gasp! And honestly, looking at this giant list of ministry, I started to feel like a worship ministry hog! I was scheduled to lead worship on the weekends, Tuesday mornings for a school chapel, Tuesday nights for a women’s ministry, Wednesday nights, monthly Friday mornings and an event here and there! It was WAY too much for one person, and I started to wonder if these opportunities would be a huge blessing for someone else. I found that as soon as I marked something off of my list, I would feel a sense of freedom and was able to breathe a little deeper, knowing that not only was the extra responsibility off my plate, but that God was going to gift it to someone else who would be excited by it, rather than overwhelmed!
I always do my grocery shopping on Monday mornings, and I usually have the same cashier. We were talking about the Christmas season, and how people get really stressed out. She said something I found interesting and sad. She said that she calls Christmas the “Have to Holiday,” because you have to bake cookies; you have to get presents; you have to get a tree. As we chatted, while she rang up my groceries, I told her about my list of responsibilities, and how I had taken some things off my plate earlier in the year; and that only now was I getting to see the full benefit of lifting that weight. As I left the store, I was so grateful for the choices God directed me in at the beginning of the year, realizing that it has had a long-lasting effect on my everyday life and ministry.
This year has been one of the calmest years I have had, and I have never felt so confident in my calling.
The things God has called me to are a joy and not a burden. And I have been able to watch others flourish in the areas where I had previously been just trying to hold down the fort. And as far as Christmas this year, it has been the chillest Christmas season I have had in probably 10 years. I have been able to have a day to just bake cookies and lovingly decorate them. I have been able to breathe deep and enjoy the season with my family and friends; it is far from the “Have To Holiday” for me this year.
I wonder if you are struggling to keep your head above water when it comes to your list of things to do?
Maybe God is calling you to make a list, pray over it and then get out the red pen to start making more room in your life for what you are really called to, and not just what you can do.
The ministry God has called you to isn’t meant to be a burden. Yes, we do have work to do, and yes, it can be hard. But I truly believe that our desires will line up with our calling, and if you feel that you are just filling a need, perhaps someone else is eagerly anticipating an opportunity to do what is a burden to you. So, my friends, go to God today; give Him your attention, and most of all, give Him your time. We will never get our time back, so let’s make sure we are using it the way God really wants us to! Merry Christmas!