I love sitting. I love watching terrible TV. I love the sheer bliss of having nothing to do and nowhere to be. But unfortunately, there’s not been a lot of room in my life recently for “nothing”.
I work in publishing Monday to Thursday, and on Fridays I work for Liberti. Then, somewhere else in my week, I’m in charge of content for Pursuit International. That sounds busy enough – until you add in all the church stuff. I’m in a worship band. I’m on the Sunday school team. I’m a Partnership Group Leader. I’m currently going to Alpha so that’s all my Tuesday nights until the end of November. I also attempt to see family and friends as often as I can and, you know, hang out with James every now and then. So apart from using it as an excuse not to do exercise, having no time for myself is starting to wear me down.
It’s hard to complain about how busy you are without sounding like you’re, you know, complaining – and I’m not. I love all the things that I have going on in my life. I have three jobs that let me make books, work on an awesome magazine and attempt to save the world. I’m on three church rotas, which allow me to sing, play with adorable tiny humans and have interesting deep chats with some really cool people. I love hanging out with all my favourite people, and am really blessed to have so many people in my life who I like and who like me! I’m not saying for one second that I wish these things weren’t in my life, but something’s got to give.
My friend Beth is coming to Alpha with me, which is awesome, but I nearly didn’t ask her. Not because I was afraid she would say no (although asking people to Alpha is terrifying) but because part of me was afraid she’d say yes. Part of me was worried how I was going to fit another thing into my week, and that’s not on. If you can’t make time for your friends, if you can’t make time for Jesus, if you can’t make time for introducing your friends to Jesus (but seriously, no pressure Beth!) then you can be on as many church rotas as you like but, really, what’s the point?
I think I have a problem a lot of Christians have; your church is struggling to get volunteers for something, you see a need, and you fill it. Then another rota needs volunteers and you sign up for that too. And then there’s a new teaching series in the week you feel you should go to, and then there are church meetings and prayer meetings (and as you’re pretty involved in church life at this point you feel you should go) and then there are “thank-you-for-all-the-things-you-do” evenings, and then, and then, and then. Soon we’re complaining that Church takes up all our time and getting angry at people who don’t step up to volunteer, but they’re not the problem; we are.
God wants your everything, but if you try to give your everything to everything, you end up not giving much of anything at all. You deny yourself the space and time you need to unwind and just be, which means you give a pretty ratty version of yourself to all these things you do. Your heart just can’t be in it if your brain is thinking about what you have to prepare for the next thing on your list. And you’re also denying someone else the opportunity to get involved, because you’re taking their spot on the team instead of cheering them on. If you keep filling the gap, no one else will realise that there are gaps to be filled.
My friend Anna says that when you say no to something you’re not really saying no; you’re saving room for your next yes. I like that a lot. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK not to “try and fit it in”. It’s OK to wait and see what life brings, as it’s much easier to pick something up than to put it down again.
So next time you’re invited to join a team or take on more responsibility, take some time to think first. Think about what’s in your life now, and think about what may come around the corner. Think about what you’re currently doing that maybe you could swap with this new thing, instead of just adding the new thing in. Think about the people you know who would be great for this job too, and maybe put that person forward instead. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that I never want to be so busy, so involved in church life, that I miss the chance to take care of myself, to be a friend or to be a real follower of Jesus.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti