A few months ago I asked my pastor if I could highlight one of my favorite mission organizations on a Sunday morning. He considered the idea, but ultimately turned down the request due to how much was going on at the time.
Although I respected his decision, I was still upset, thinking of the many children in poverty who could have found sponsors. A few Sunday mornings later, my pastor explained that people had been inundating him with requests to do lots of good things – beneficial things, wonderful things, spiritual things. But he had to turn down many of these requests in order to stay true to the original mission of the church and to use the staff’s time most wisely.
That got me thinking. How many good things in my life displace the most important things?
When I first started staying home with my daughter, I had a hard time filling up my day. (Those glorious first months of napping!) During the slower times, I volunteered at my church and other organizations in the area. I felt guilty “just” staying home with a baby. But as the pace picked up, I began to juggle the work I committed to and the responsibility of raising my child.
The problem is that there’s so much good to do that it would take up all of my time, money, and strength just to accomplish even a fraction of what I want to do. And that doesn’t even include all of the housework that I get to do.
In order to keep my family as a priority, I’ve had to admit that I’m not a super woman. I can’t do everything I want to do. I can’t read every book I want to read. I can’t pull every weed in my garden. And I can’t volunteer for every worthwhile project that comes my way.
Despite my ability to multi-task, saying “yes” to one thing requires me to say “no” to an infinite number of other things.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that “‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
Sure, Paul was talking about food, but his words could also apply to the good, permissible things that don’t benefit my overall family life.
I’ve found that it helps to decide on those important things before I start planning out my calendar. I am the Family Calendar Gatekeeper. I have to set the limits, to stop us from being pulled in different directions.
I have to learn to say “no.”
I recently began a conversation with my husband to reprioritize both our personal and family time. Although the discussion isn’t over, the top of the list includes God, Family, Friends, Self-Care, Housework, Self-Improvement (not necessarily in that order). We listed concrete things that take us away from our time together – book clubs, Kiwanis, Bible studies, blogging. We’ve made hard decisions.
I stopped doing some activities that I’ve enjoyed, including tutoring in an ESL class and baking goodies for the troops, both really good things.
But I’m happier with our new, deliberate approach to life. I’m excited to choose the best and most important ways to spend my time.
And friends, that’s a very good thing.