I have always been a hard worker. I studied for hours in high school to get straight A’s. I continued working hard in college, knowing that if I wanted to get into medical school, I had to “put my nose to the grindstone”. I graduated from college in 3 years, in a hurry to get on with my plans. I continued in this vein through four years of medical school and four years of residency, even making time to get married and have two children during those intense years. I developed habits that made me a superb time manager and an efficient and successful task-oriented person.
These habits became part of who I was. I took great pride in accomplishing more in one afternoon than some people do in a week. But it came with a price. I ended up burned out physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Burnout was not the only consequence. My relationships with Rick, my kids, my family, my friends and the Lord suffered. I put pressure on myself to perform – to be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and Christian that I could be. But I never felt like what I did was enough. If I was “succeeding” in one area, then I was failing in other areas.
I drop the “busy” bomb in a conversation almost as evidence that my life is full. But here’s the odd thing: it isn’t something to strive for. It isn’t something to be proud of. When I look back at my life, I don’t want to say “I was really busy”. John Spencer
“I’m a busy woman” I used to say with pride. I wore my busyness as a badge of honor. My booked schedule proof of my value, my worth. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t happy. Mary Pritchard
If you google “wearing busy as a badge”, you’ll find many good articles about this concept, how and why it’s so prevalent, and ways to overcome it. I will not deal with it comprehensively here, but feel free to read more about it yourselves. It has taken me years to overcome this tendency, and I am still deep down a recovering workaholic. In God’s severe mercy, He has used different trials over the years to help me realize the emptiness that resulted from being a performance-based person.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
I am learning to be a “Mary” in a “Martha” world. I want to choose “what is better” instead of trying to “have it all and do it all”. I have learned I can’t make these changes on my own though. I have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct my thoughts and my heart, helping me to know what the best option is out of many good options, what needs to be the priority at any given time, and to be content in all circumstances and at all times.
Here are some of the ways that my life is different now:
- I take seriously having a day of rest and I look for opportunities to read, pray, or meditate quietly throughout the rest of the week as well
- I allow my relationships to take priority over getting stuff done, knowing that I have to have quantity time with others in order to get quality time with them
- I take better care of my physical body – getting around 8 hours of sleep each night; exercising regularly; taking the time to buy, prepare and eat healthy food instead of eating fast food or junk food on the run
- I am able to enjoy taking vacations, reading just for pleasure, and doing other leisure activities (sometimes)
- I remind myself that there is no way I could ever be perfect and that God and others don’t expect that from me so I should stop expecting it from myself
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Hebrews 13:20-21