RECOGNIZING MY LIMITATIONS
With camp being just around the corner, many worries tend to creep into my noggin. Couple that with the busyness of my personal life and you can conclude that burnout will be unavoidable unless drastic changes take place.
I have been spending many nights sitting at my cubicle working on hiring Teen Staff, and despite the long hours I still try to make time to hang out with my friends. The downer is that there isn’t enough time in the day. So now I am faced with a question: What will I give up in order to lead a more balanced life? After thinking through how I could change in order to achieve this balance, a couple things came to mind.
I recently saw a documentary about some monks called “Into Great Silence,” and something struck me in this. These people really cherished the discipline of silence and solitude and what was interesting to me is what brought them joy. They prayed and worked and ate in silence, but you could tell that they were loving what they were doing. In addition to their daily tasks, they would take walks once a week around the hilltops just outside of their monastery. Seeing the way the monk’s faces would light up really perplexed me. These people lived with the bare essentials and the exciting point of their week simply getting to talk with their brothers while they walked around admiring all that God had created. Later on that night, it clicked with me. I think that over the course of my life I have lost touch with the beauty of simple living. Whenever I see things like that movie, it provokes something deep within me that just seems so much more right than what I have bought into. I have accumulated all this stuff, watched all these movies, played all these video games, bought all of this musical equipment...and it has in turn made me blind to the simple beauty of good conversation and deep friendships.
The other thing I have begun to realize throughout this time of questioning is that I may have too many friends. I know this sounds funny, but I am really questioning this. Whenever I look at Jesus’ ministry, I notice something...He hung out with twelve people pretty regularly, and of those twelve people there were only three who hung out with Jesus more intentionally. Granted, tons of people hung around Jesus and He definitely didn’t brush by them...but He intentionally did life with twelve people. This is incredible to me. Why would Jesus only choose twelve to do life with? Why not more? Why not a lot more?! Besides the rich symbolism of that number twelve, there is also something very practical about it. As I look at our culture and how we strive for efficiency in all facets of life, I see this number as being very inefficient. I like that it is this way though—it wouldn’t work any other way. Not only did Jesus use these twelve people to transform the world, but I think He also realized that relationships take time. In order for a relationship to be truly deep and intimate there has to be many conversations, shared experiences and time just being around each other (even if it feels like time wasted)—in other words, inefficient. If not, trust is never built and you never end up revealing yourself to the other person...which is exactly what God wants. He has already revealed (and continues to reveal) himself to us, invited us to enter into life with him and all we have to do is wake up to it and accept it. From there we get to journey with him, learning more about who God truly is and how we fit into the big picture as one of his beloved children. On top of that, we have the incredible privilege of inviting others into the same relationship we are already experiencing. I love this stuff!
With this realization I now look at all the different networking websites I am signed up on, all the text messages I send, and I realize that I am trying to have meaningful relationships with entirely too many people. I have been juggling hundreds of relationships for years, and now am experiencing the consequences of that. I can’t ever remember who I make plans with and when, so at any given time I am having to apologize and reschedule hang out times...which is rather exhausting. I also am suffering because I neglect the relationships I really should be nurturing. I am being pulled in a million directions because of my friend count and it is pulling me away from family and friends...ultimately leaving me with NO deep relationships. That’s a scary thought.
So what does this all mean for me? A new beginning of sorts, I guess. I am going to make a valiant return to early internet days...meaning I am going to just have an email account and my Youthfront blog...nothing else. I realize I don’t need the extra distraction of these “networking” sites that are a poor substitute for real friendships. Other than that, I am going to try to simply be a good steward of the great family and friends God has blessed me with...while still being open to those little interruptions He throws at me. I am not disowning all of the friends I have made over the years, but am simply choosing the “twelve” and doing life with them. In other words, I am ready to really take a stab at trying to “Love God and love others” ...and this is just one step towards trying to live that out better.
Nathan and me at Six Flags.
This last month was really refreshing. One reason why is because of a person...and that person’s name is Nathan. Nathan is a disabled teenager who attends my church and I got the sweet opportunity of being his ever-present friend for a weekend retreat the middle school group takes every year. We went to the St. Louis Zoo, Six Flags and the Old Spaghetti Factory. It was great.
What made this trip so special was that I really got to start living out some of the things I had learned while in India. One of the things came out of a book where the author talked of his experiences with Mother Teresa while he was in Calcutta. Basically the author talked of how Mother Teresa was able to do the type of ministry she did, and he found that it was because she looked for and found Jesus in the people she served. In Mat. 25, Jesus says, “as we do unto the least of these, you have done unto me.” Mother Teresa saw Jesus in these people and was able to love them in a very unique, different way. In her mind she was giving Jesus clothes, food, shelter and a loving gesture.
While on the trip I was able to ride rides, eat funnel cake, answer questions and laugh out loud with Nathan. I know for a fact I would not have been able to love the weekend if it wasn’t for that passage and its implications. As I looked into Nathan’s eyes I can honestly say I saw Jesus there. Nathan was beautifully and wonderfully made, and I am still blown away that I got to share that time with him. It was an incredible experience for me and I now have a newfound admiration for the parents of disabled children. Also, I think it is safe to say that I will never again use a handicapped bathroom stall...when they gotta go, they gotta go!