Thursday, March 20, 2014

You can't do it all

You can't do it all. Not by yourself. Not a chance.

We've all tried it, though, haven't we? Especially those of us who are recovering Type A's. We're the ones who take point on the projects, not trusting that they will get finished if we don't steer the ship. Surely we've all had times when we take on the full load because we want to know that a job is done 100% correct. It seems necessary to be a part of every detail to ensure all the bases are covered.

In the midst of that project, another one crops up, and you think you can eek it out, too. Slowly but surely, you work longer hours, take fewer breaks. PTO - what's that? 12:00 appears twice in your waking hours. You forget (or don't make time) to eat. You cancel plans with the people you care about, making excuses for your "crazy-busy schedule."

Me? Guilty as charged.

And thankfully, I'm not alone. Apparently Moses was a bit of a work hoarder, too. In Exodus 18, we see that he's taken the reigns as judge over Israel. Completely qualified and with only good intentions, Moses serves the people "from morning till evening" (v. 13). All day, he listened to cases and made decisions. He heard testimonies and in his wisdom had to decide the outcome. The people came to him to seek God's will when they had a dispute. What a responsibility!

Finally, Moses' father-in-law stepped in and called his attention to the impact this schedule was having on his health and well-being. Join me in observing Jethro's wisdom:

"When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, 'What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge while these people stand around you from morning till evening?...What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to Him...But select capable men from all the people - men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain - and appoint them as officials...Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied" (v. 14-23).

A few points that stick out to me:

  • It took an "outsider" who cared about Moses to see the stress he was experiencing and confront him about it (so often, we simply cannot see it ourselves, or if we do, we won't acknowledge it until confronted by someone we love)
  • Jethro approached Moses with an admonition but also with a solution (he didn't just scold Moses for taking on too much)
  • Jethro gently reproached Moses, but he left the response in God's hands (no matter how much they care, no one can make a person respond to reproach - only God can change a heart)
  • The result of Moses delegating authority would be less strain for him and satisfaction for the people (it is not only for our benefit that we learn to share the load - it will benefit others, as well)

Recently, God blessed me richly with an opportunity at work to delegate a number of tasks to a new employee in a pseudo-manager work relationship. With a tendency to hold things closely, it took me awhile to feel comfortable delegating these tasks so that I could a) experience relief, and b) have the opportunity to pursue more strategic responsibilities. 

The key here is that I had to trust this person. I don't believe God advocates for us to relinquish important things to untrustworthy people. In verse 21, Jethro commands Moses to "(...)select capable men from all the people - men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain(...)" After a period of vetting, I realized that this person could be trusted to take on the work and to ask the right questions if he was unsure of the answer.

God has granted me significant relief through the blessing of this new employee, not only at work, but in my personal life. He continues to teach me to slow down and enjoy time with Him and the people I love. I can't do it all. I don't WANT to do it all. We cannot succeed in isolation - we have to learn to depend on each other. 

May I continue to learn how to share the load - both in releasing my hold on certain things and in taking on new things to help others.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

That's not my job

Now wait just a minute. Don't worry - I'm not trying to take the easy way out of something, and I'm not trying to create more work for you. I'm not falling ill to the entitlement syndrome that is plaguing our society and telling you that I'm above hard work.

No, this is a rather different sort of post.

Today, I saw the movie "Philomena," and my mind has been occupied all day with one of its core themes: forgiveness. I won't spoil the film for those of you who plan to see it, so I'll be vague. Throughout the film, there is a particular injustice that causes your defenses to rise, and you just want to see a certain person (or group of people) face the music. You want to see her/them called to account and forced to face the pain they caused so many people. So, when the opportune moment arises, it almost deflated me when instead of wrath, forgiveness was offered.

After recovering from my shock, I was ashamed. I started thinking through what exactly I wanted to happen in that moment of reckoning. I think the most important thing to me was that this person/these people learned a lesson. I wanted to ensure that there was no doubt of the pain that was caused, and I wanted to see remorse.

But we don't always get what we want. And when we have seen someone experience the consequences for sin, how many of us have felt sick that what we hoped for actually happened? Paul reminds us that God promises He is in control, and we should not take revenge:

"Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God..." (Romans 12:19)

Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened but releasing it and not allowing the cold hand of Bitterness to strangle the life out of your heart. It is not our job to teach others a lesson - it is our job to forgive.

I attended the Prestonwood Women's Retreat a few weekends ago, and was blessed to sit under the teaching of Jennifer Rothschild and Stormie Omartian. I took home so many gems of truth from the retreat that you can be sure you'll hear more about it in the months to come. One of the key take-aways from Stormie, a woman who experienced tremendous trials as a child that grew in her a deep bitterness towards her mother, was about forgiveness. Simple and true, she said,

"Forgiveness doesn't make the other person right - it makes you free."

In the wise words of Philomena, she agreed. Below is the brief dialogue between her and a reporter who had become her companion on a journey to find out the truth about the past. When the truth was discovered, he did not like it...

Philomena: I forgive you (Catholic nun) because I don't want to remain angry.

<Martin (i.e. reporter) exclaims in shock and disagreement>

Philomena: But I don't wanna hate people. I don't wanna be like you (Martin). Look at you.
Martin: I'm angry.
Philomena: Must be exhausting.

Anger and bitterness can turn us into different people, and it is EXHAUSTING. Forgiveness frees us. Once we let go of the selfish desire to be proven right or justified, we are free to heal and get stronger. It's not easy...it never is. But it's what God did for us, and what we ought to do for others:

"Our Father in heaven...forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us" (Matt 6:19-13).

"Husbands...treat her (your wife) as you should so your prayers will not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).

"So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the alter in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the alter. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God" (Matthew 5:23-24).