My seven-year-old looked adorable in his basketball jersey. It hung down way past his waist, but he didn’t care. He was too excited for his first day of the basketball program through our YMCA: skills assessment day. He was one of the most enthusiastic participants on the gym floor, and we cheered him on from the bleachers. My husband volunteered to coach one of the teams, remembering with fondness his own early days of basketball.
A week later we discovered that the program was unable to accommodate my husband’s work schedule, and they assigned our son to a team that would be practicing late on Friday nights. We debated our options: should we inconvenience our whole family and allow our kids to stay up late every Friday? Or should we ask for a refund?
In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that he has come so that we may have life, and have it to the full. But full of what, I wonder? How can we live a full life without using our full schedules as an outward show of our own importance and worth?
There are three factors to determine when considering our full lives.
1. Determine Priorities
When it finally came time to send my youngest to kindergarten, I had great expectations of what I would accomplish with the sudden increase of my free time. I made goals for writing projects, a housekeeping schedule, a grocery and meal planning calendar, and I vowed to declutter my whole house Marie Kondo style. None of my plans, however, took into account the myriad of interruptions to my day. The struggling friend at school drop-off who needed a listening ear. An invitation to grab coffee. A ministry work meeting that ran long.
When all I wanted to do was to check items off my to-do list, I was faced with a choice: will I put people first or projects first?
When our lives are too full to notice the people around us, we have lost our way. Determining my priorities helps me to make quick decisions when interruptions come my way.
2. Determine Motivation
The quickest way to burnout is to add a bunch of activities and obligations to my calendar just because I think I should. Just because everyone else’s kids are playing soccer doesn’t mean I have to join them. Just because all the other moms are volunteering at the school doesn’t mean I need to as well. We should be wary of adding things – even good things – to our calendars just because it’s what’s expected.
Let’s determine our motivations when we pencil in another activity into our schedules. And let’s examine our hearts: do we anticipate this event or does it fill us with dread? Are we thankful or resentful? Is this activity serving the needs of my family or am I looking to impress, to fit in, or to please?
3. Determine the Source
I’ve tried to tackle my daily tasks out of my own strength and energy. It never ends well. I get trapped in a vicious cycle of caffeine, badly timed naps, and staying up too late. I’ve learned that I need to keep my relationship with Jesus central to everything else, and the best way to do that is to stay connected to God. That doesn’t mean adding more Bible studies or prayer groups to my week, it means abiding: intentionally setting aside time for Jesus. For me, that looks like waking up a bit before everyone else and praying in a way that involves stillness and listening. I ask God for the energy that I’ll need for the day, and for his help in discerning the best use of my time. Keeping my focus on the One who gives and sustains all life is the best way that I’ve found to abide in Him.
This isn’t to say that I don’t ever drink caffeine or take naps. But knowing the source of my strength helps me to ultimately put my trust in God.
A Rubber Band Life
We are rubber bands, and every time we add an activity to our schedule, we are stretched a little farther. At some point, it’s possible we may snap. I want to make sure that I can participate in my everyday life with joy instead of resentment, and take on responsibilities out of love instead of duty. That’s why we told our oldest son that instead of playing basketball through the YMCA, we would use the refund to buy a basketball hoop for our driveaway. Thankfully, he was excited at the prospect of playing with neighborhood friends, and is looking forward to one-on-one time with his dad.
And it’s all happening on our own schedule.