Ever heard “you can’t pour from an empty pitcher“?
Have I left you scratching your head, wondering ‘what in the world are you talking about?’ I hope not, but if so, let me explain. Basically, if you are used up, overloaded, without rest and spent, you cannot give to others effectively. In order to give (of yourself) you need to be filled up, as in a pitcher of water, so that you can freely give of yourself. This involves balance and most importantly, learning to say “no” when necessary. In the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, we read that there is a time for everything.
This is my struggle. I don’t know if you can relate or not. Here’s where I fall off the wagon: My response to people asking if I can participate in, or do such and such, tends to be “yes” (if at the time I’m genuinely interested and honestly want to do whatever it is.) What I oftentimes don’t consider is that I may, depending on the season I’m in, already have a full plate for me. There, that is the pivotal word: me. You see, my full plate may not be your full plate. There are times when I can and do add obligations to my plate when I absolutely have no business doing so. Why? Because I’m already tapped out. I have no reserve. I’m over-committed. For me to take on yet another thing, I need to drop something I’m currently doing. Make sense?
When I’m consistently having my Quiet Time with the Lord, seeking His will, not my own, and what HE would have me give my time, attention, and resources to, it’s much easier for me to discern how to respond. On the flip side, when I’m running on my own power, I tend to gravitate to anything that I have an interest for and upon agreeing, I feel anxious and trapped afterwards. This is not a healthy place to be, if you haven’t guessed. This often leads me in a downward spiral of “but Sally Sue can do all this and more. What is wrong with me that I can’t do it all?” My husband quickly reminds me with much wisdom that “you are not that person and they are not in your shoes“.
As well, I believe that too often, we as Christians mistakenly read the scripture Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to mean that we are supposed to be doing everything we can because God will give us the strength to accomplish it all. In so doing, people take this verse out of context and use it to reinforce a “triumphalist” or “super-Christian” mentality, instead of seeing that the strength of Jesus in Paul’s life was evident in his ability to be content when he did suffer need (Enduring Word Commentary).
“I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” Philippians 4:10-14 (NIV)
So, what are we supposed to do, worn out Mommas? How are we to respond to well-meaning requests for volunteer work, or what have you? My personal opinion is first to pause and let the person asking know that you need time to consider and to seek God on it. Then, don’t allow yourself to use that response as an excuse; rather, go and seek God on it. Ask Him for His wisdom and discernment on the issue. Consider the cost of taking on another commitment and ask God for His help in making the decision. He loves when we go to Him and ask for His help (James 1:5). He promises to give us the discernment and wisdom we’re asking for (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 2:2,6,10; Proverbs 3:13,21; Proverbs 4:1,5,7,11; Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 9:10-12. I could go on and on and on….)
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.