So here’s my confession: this semester has been a total gong show and in very many ways, a total failure on my part. Somewhere along the way I started believing that in order to have a full life without regrets, it means saying yes to everything. It means trying to be everything for everyone. It means attempting to be the fixer of all problems, and the carrier of all burdens. In trying to be fully present and not saying no because of being afraid of missing out on something, and in my attempt to try to do it all, I have failed miserably at life this semester. I took on things so I could have more life and together, all combined, they ended up sucking the life right out of me.
Last week while I was having a very candid conversation with one of my professors about an essay grade that I was not very happy with, he broke me down with a few unexpected words. I was being defensive and trying to cover up my lack of effort when he told me that he knew I hadn’t given the assignment 100%, and he felt like I had been coasting through his class. Those words struck my heart like a bullet; they were like poison to my overachieving soul, but they broke me. Everything that had been building came out. I cried, I confessed far too much, I said I was sorry, I said that I was ashamed, that I’ve never been this person, that it’s not who I am. And in those very raw moments, my professor turned into my pastor and offered me something I so desperately needed: grace.
Prior to that conversation, I never would have admitted that I thought I could do it all. Yet, I think deep down I really did think I could do it all. I thought I could be everything to everyone. And now, after a semester that has left me utterly exhausted, with a tank on empty, I’m finally ready to admit that I can’t do it all. Because trying to do it all robs you of joy and fun and rest. It robs you of having time to really see people, instead of blankly staring at them while you think about everything else you have to do. It robs you of patience, and time and of bring able to breath deeply.
And I’ve found that there are two beings that it robs. First, it robs me. My body gets the shaft because I don’t make time to get the proper rest, I don’t make time to eat right and exercise and do the things that fill me up so that I can pour out. And so what happens is that by doing more, I really have less to give and offer others.
The second being it robs is Jesus. I’d like to say that in my efforts to do it all, I put Jesus first, but I can’t. He gets put on the back burner because after all, it’s all for him. Right? My manager said to me the other day that you can do ministry without God. It’s a simple thought and probably obvious to most, but it hit me when she said it. Have I been doing that? Have I been going so fast that I haven’t left any margin for Jesus to actually fill me? Maybe he doesn’t actually want me to be doing everything I’m doing? Could it be? And furthermore, in robbing Jesus of my time, I’ve also robbed myself of his presence. So I get robbed twice.
I’ve felt like a failure for the past week because I couldn’t do it all. I’ve felt like a disappointment to God because I’m supposed to be his superstar servant and I came up short. And the guilt flows easily in my tired and anxious state. I want to throw in the towel because the bar is too high and I’ve always been able to reach it, until now.
So as I enter into this week of celebration and rest, I cling to the promise that his burden is light and his yoke is easy. I’m clinging to that part where Jesus tells me to cast all of my stuff on him. I’m clinging to that story in the Bible when God gave David rest because that’s what he needed. I’m holding on to that small voice that whispers that despite failing, somehow I’m still enough. I wish it would shout it at me, maybe then it would sink in and take root.
If denial is the first step then I’m hoping confession puts me a little farther down the line. So here’s to the ones who like me thought, or still think they can do it all. May you find grace when you hit burn out and realize your expectations of yourself are not God’s (thank goodness).
And may you trade your burden for his because his yoke is easy.