How the battering ram got into my laundry room, I do not know, but one thing was for sure--it wanted out.
The hammering began suddenly, and quickly escalated in volume and intensity. I heard the sound from the back of the house and was on my feet before I had time to process it. By the time I reached the laundry room, however, I'd identified the source of the noise and flung myself toward the washing machine in an effort to silence it as quickly as possible.
You guessed it--overload.
Although I had evenly arranged the towels in the washtub and put in what I thought was a manageable number, the agitation of the wash cycle had rearranged the contents. When the spin cycle began, the towels, heavy with water, became unbalanced.
Lopsided, the washer struggled vainly to compensate as it knocked across the floor. Had the process gone on much longer, the machine would have been seriously damaged.
Sometimes, much like my washing machine, I, too, become unbalanced.
Although I try to make wise decisions about how to spend my time and energy, the demands of marriage, motherhood, work, civic, and church responsibility combine to create a heavy load. I juggle it for a while, until one component shifts and causes the whole load to tilt. The alarm sounds, and I face a choice--make some changes or risk serious consequences. Often those consequences threaten my health, relationships, or spiritual life.
So what are we to do when our lives become unbalanced?
We do what I did to my washing machine:
1. Assess the problem. I had placed too many heavy items in one load. Our lives become out of whack for the same reason.
If you have young children at home, they require a tremendous amount of care. So do teenagers. This may not be the time to undertake a demanding project, a position with increased responsibility, or a role that requires long hours of uninterrupted concentration. It's important to recognize that motherhood is a season of life that usually causes us to scale back outside commitments. Realizing that it is a precious season that will pass quickly helps us to keep the proper perspective.
It's helpful to periodically take a thoughtful, prayerful look at our commitments. Determine what it is that has caused our lives to become unbalanced. Is there a relationship that has become more needy? A role that has become more complicated? A job that has increased in responsibility?
Ask yourself: What would it take for me to feel less overwhelmed and more efficient? Spotlight this area and move to Step 2.
2. Redistribute. I pulled the whole load of soggy towels out of the washer to determine what was out of balance. Then I redistributed them in a more balanced way. We can do this in our lives as well.
While we often prefer to do it all ourselves, an honest assessment can help identify which parts of our load to reassign. If carpool duties are overwhelming, can you pair with another mom to share the driving? If you can't find time to run errands or pay bills, is there a teenager you can hire as a mother's helper for a few hours a week to free you up? Perhaps she'd also be willing to tackle some simple housekeeping tasks you just haven't had time to do. If you're longing for some "me time," would your husband be willing to put the kids to bed a few evenings a week so you can have time to read or catch up on email correspondence?
Ask yourself: In what areas do I need help? Then prayerfully ask God to show you who can come alongside you.
3. Remove. After I pulled the soggy towels out of the washer, it was apparent that they constituted too heavy a load for my washer to handle. Sometimes our lives are like this, too. We add responsibilities one at a time, and each one by itself isn't overwhelming. The cumulative effect, however, is another story.
If we find ourselves sacrificing sleep, one-on-one time with our husbands, or consistent times of prayer and Bible reading, our plates are too full. Failing to pare down will inevitably lead to a breakdown somewhere.
While we prefer to think we're indispensable, the truth is that we're not. Assuming or continuing in responsibilities when the Lord has shown us otherwise can cause us to become ineffective, stressed, or discouraged. It can also keep someone else from stepping up, because we're doing it all.
Ask yourself: What has God called me to do that no one else can do in this season of life?
Compare this to your list of activities and responsibilities. You'll probably find many good things on the list. Some of these good things, however, compete with and distract from the primary responsibilities to which God has called you. These are the ones to remove.
"The good is the enemy of the best," writes theologian Oswald Chambers. Restating his observation in the form of a question causes us to ask, What good things are keeping me from doing what is best in my life right now? Answer honestly, then say no to anything that keeps you from pursuing God's best.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, take time soon to prayerfully assess, redistribute, and remove. You'll be glad you did.
In what ways have you had to assess, redistribute, or remove? How has it worked? Leave a comment below and join in the conversation. If you're reading by email, click here to comment.
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