You need to live a smaller life. That is what I felt God telling me this morning as I got still and quiet for the first time in a long time. I need to live a smaller life? What does that even mean? That was my first reaction.
But actually, I know what it means. It means that I am doing a whole lot of things that really are outside my main purpose in life at this stage. I am living in a sea of distractions that are pulling me from one place to another and stealing my energy and passion away from what really matters. I know that my main purposes are this: to find peace with God in my everyday, mundane circumstances and to love my people well. My people are the two little crazies whose rear ends depend on me to wipe them and the handsome man who walks in my door every evening with a hug and says, “How was your day?”. Those are my people, and yet there are so many other people and other things who are getting a big, big piece of me. Perhaps they shouldn’t be.
I don’t know where it is written that when you become a mother you have inevitably signed a binding agreement that you will from here on out attempt to be everything to everyone or die trying. I don’t remember signing that agreement, but it is the reality for me and pretty much every other mother I know. And while the things we are committed to are worthwhile things, they are killing us. They are killing our joy and our passion to parent. And our schools and our churches are complicit in this death because they are constantly asking us for more. It isn’t enough to love our children well when they are home with us. We need also to give more and more and more to the places where we send our children. Volunteer for a fundraiser, help out in the classroom, give more time and more money and more of yourself- that’s the message. And we want desperately to be good parents, so we comply. We give and we give and we give. At the end of the day, I’m not sure we have much left for the people who all of this is supposed to be for in the first place.
And then there’s the relational side of things. I need to be a good friend, to serve others, to be there for people who need help. I feel a constant pull to be doing more, being more for nearly every person that crosses my path. I need to participate in book clubs and Bible studies and neighborhood get-togethers.
Somewhere on that list also falls the professional side of things. People have told me that they enjoy my writing. Somehow, rather than a simple encouragement, I have taken that as a reason to strive for more. I have decided that I want to write a book, so I’ve added to my plate the pressure to achieve a goal that no one has asked of me.
All of these things have added up to a person who is tired, who is being pulled in a thousand directions and doesn’t want to live life that way anymore. But when I take a serious look at stopping these things that are not working for me, do you know what gives me pause? The fear of what other people will think of me. When it comes down to it, the reason I’m doing most of these things that don’t bring joy to me or my family is because I feel the pressure from other people. I want them to think that I am a good mother, a successful writer, a great friend, a faithful servant at my church, an involved parent at my kid’s school, and I want them to think that I can manage all of that with relative ease.
So, here’s the only way I know to break free of this prison. I am mustering up the courage to be a big, fat disappointment. I am going to be the friend who hasn’t called and invited you out to dinner to ask how you’re doing even though I’ve always done that for you in the past. I am going to be the mom who doesn’t volunteer in my kid’s class and who you may judge accordingly. I might be the writer who has a lot of promise and never really does much with it. I may or may not show up to church on Sunday morning, but if I do I will be there to worship and I won’t feel guilty for it. I am going to be the blogger who posts this blog without editing it, without worrying who it offends, without finding a really cool graphic to go with it.
I am going to have the courage to disappoint others in hopes that it will give me the freedom to be who I am meant to be, for myself and for my people.