I want to share some things we’ve learned about finding balance in the missional life. Sometimes this is referred to as “soul care” or “self care.” We prefer to talk about sustainability. SUSTAINABILITY is having the right amount of resources to move beyond mere survival. To FLOURISH is to enter deeply into the experience of being fully human in the ways of Jesus.
In the same way that true peace is so much more than the absence of conflict, living a sustainable missional life is much more than just endurance. Being fully human in the ways of Jesus will include making plenty of room for the unexpected, the surprises, and the divine interruptions that come along. This requires making space in our lives to be bored, to stare at the clouds, to inhabit space open to accidental meetings and serendipitous moments. This is the space where we can flourish.
It would be easy to blame our circumstances and claim we have no control, no choice, and no way out. We are simply victims of our busy world. However, the cold hard truth is, if you are reading this, you are well in control of circumstances. You (and I) have chosen to be worn out, tired, and harried. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Shulte. She convincingly argues that we suffer from a collective delusion, the simple lie that none of us have any spare time.
The deeper problem in our culture is that we’ve turned busy-ness into a fetish. It is from a place of pride that we declare we are, “crazy-busy” and “overwhelmed.” The new liturgy that accompanies the idols of our age goes something like this:
“Hey...How are you?”
“Busy! How are you?”
“Same. Feeling worn out and tired.”
“Yep, crazy busy.”
“I just don’t have time to do what I want to do.”
This is the story the world promotes. But what if we, the people of God, are known as the ones who are open to the moment, calm, and well rested? I’m not talking about personality type; I’m speaking to the very way we inhabit our family, work, and social lives.
Sadly we have exiled the discipline of rest to a once or twice a year vacation. And this so-called rest is more often than not collapsing in exhaustion and even experiencing sickness because our bodies finally say, “enough!”
I can’t offer an easy prescription to mend this sickness. I can, however, share some things that have helped us in the journey as we live out a missionary calling. Here are three inconvenient habits:
#1. STOP SAYING YOU ARE TIRED.
A while back we decided we were no longer going to say “I’m busy” or I’m tired.” Language is a powerful thing and the words we use have a way of becoming true in our lives under certain circumstances. Instead of priming our brains and attitudes with fatigue, what if we were fueled by the story of abundance, that by God’s Spirit, we have enough to respond to what this day brings. This is a small price to pay for being well. If you’re tired all the time, change your life. How do you change your life? See #2.
#2. EMBRACE LIMITS.
Paradoxically, limits create room. Saying no means you are better at attending to the commitments you have already made. You will do beautiful, patient, and mindful work if you remove distractions. But know this: accepting that you are a limited creature is a great threat to your ego. Embracing your limits is a direct assault on self-importance and the North American “can-do/get-r-done” way. Expect pushback. Learning to say no to “the good” so you can continue with “the better” is difficult and unpopular work.
#3. AVOID NOSTALGIA (OR WISHFUL THINKING).
Don’t whine about the old days and don’t believe that if just “these things” changed, everything would be fine. If you take a minute to think about it you will recall things have changed in the past and you remained your tired and overwhelmed self. Learn to practice the discipline of receiving your life, such as it is. As a window into this discipline we would highly recommend the writings of Richard Rohr (especially “Falling Upward”).
We welcome you to try out these inconvenient disciplines and to ponder what it would mean for you to flourish. And don’t forget to stop.
About the Author
Geoff Maddock helps out with Forge curriculum, academics, and teaching while seeking shalom in his downtown neighborhood…he would prefer to just take photos. He is married and has a son.