Ever have a friend who crams too much into a day? She thinks she can workout, shower, get a manicure, pick up groceries, and cook dinner in the 2 hours she has between appointments?
She’s usually late and offers endless excuses, and tends to feel like a failure because she didn’t accomplish all she set out to do. That used to be me.
My days were packed, and I failed to plan for things like getting dressed, putting on makeup, or eating a proper meal. I’d have just enough time to get to my next commitment, and heaven forbid I missed a train or encountered traffic. There was no buffer for the unexpected, or time for me to take a breather between meetings. I was constantly running to the next thing. I was usually late, and struggled to be present to the task at hand because I was wondering about what I had to do next. When my head hit the pillow at night I felt like a failure. I rarely accomplished all the things on my unrealistic to-do list. I had a nagging sense that I was not enough.
In our culture, we give ourselves permission to slow down and create some margin during major transitions such as starting a new job, getting married, parenthood, moving, or losing a loved one. But what about in our every day lives? How do we give ourselves space between the minor events that fill our days?
[Photo c/o Sara Kerens]
Most of us juggle multiple titles throughout our days: single woman, wife, mother, sister, cousin, friend, entrepreneur, boss, employee, athlete, chef. There’s pressure to be all things at once — as though the idea of space and rest is only for the weak and weary.
God finally got my attention when I had the flu for the third time in a year. Something wasn’t working. I was 30 years old and burnout was not far from my horizon.
When I was forced to rest I started to ask myself: Why am I living this way? Why do I schedule things with little or no time in between?
I realized I was trying to be Super Woman! If I was capable of doing something, I should be doing it. I didn’t realize that beneath all my striving was a nagging question: Am I enough? Am I worthy? Will I be loved if I’m not doing?
I viewed my successes, daily to-dos and accomplishments as proof – to myself and to the world — that I mattered. My self-imposed standards and the expectations of others felt crippling.
But then I started to see the invitations Jesus has for us were things like:
Be still and know that I am God. Not do more, and then maybe you’ll know that I am God.
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Not, once you accomplish a thousand things and are all things to all people, then you can have a quick nap.
Jesus gave himself space. He sat and asked others to bring Him food, He left meals to go to quiet places and pray. He disappointed people, and He didn’t apologize for it.
Christ understood that no external person or thing had the power to validate His worth. He was grounded in imago dei. — the idea that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1), and because of that we have value and worth. Nothing external is able to define and prove our worth when we live in this truth.
If we really knew that, would we slow down? Would we pause to pray, or to sit in silence, and have time for an unexpected phone call with a loved one? Imago dei means before I took my first breath I was, am, and will always be enough, worthy, and loved. God’s invitation is for us to be with Him, not to do more.
Life should be about more than cramming as much as possible into every day. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. And when we practice giving ourselves space it prepares us to move through life from a more grounded place.
I am still learning how to do this well. I have to practice creating healthy daily margins. There have been many times where I’ve had to ask myself why I’m adding certain things to my schedule. I’m reminded that we are imago dei: made in the image of God. And nothing other than that can define who you are and your worth.