I was talking to a good friend the other day, verbally processing the last few weeks. We talked about the end of summer, the start of fall, school beginning, returning to a schedule and how busy work is right now. In our conversation we realized that ever since “school started,” the people we know and love have been dealing with an inordinate amount of stress and struggle. School tends to signal the end of summer even for those who are not students or educational professionals. In many ways, this stress has a national impact.
My friend shared that a few days prior, she spoke with a parent who was distressed about her child’s recent emotional state. After asking this parent a few questions my friend asked, “What has changed since the summer that would create heightened stress and anxiety?” already knowing the answer. “School started,” the parent responded.
For some, school is their happy place—a place where they are challenged academically and where their social needs are met. For others, just thinking about it produces great anxiety. However, for all, it is a place of great burden, responsibility and stress. After spending more time this week thinking about my friend’s conversation, I concluded that this added responsibility and heightened stress, anxiety and pressure to outperform is present in all of our lives. Whatever it is that we do, we experience these same feelings prevalently.
I’m certainly not proposing that we eliminate work and responsibility from our lives. Frankly, that sounds kind of boring and definitely disastrous. But what I am proposing is that we take a moment, as soon as possible, to look at our lives and ask the question, “How can I juggle it all?” What is it that we are filling our lives with? Is it life-giving? Does it bear fruit? Does it further the kingdom of God and make disciples for the transformation of the world? After all, that is our calling as Christians.
What is distracting us? What is building us up?
I find that when I do this work and apply these questions on a daily basis to all the responsibilities on my plate, I may have to say “no” to something important simply because I can’t do it all. Sometimes this means risking a friend or business relationship because I just don’t have time to do something anymore.
But I promise that doing this hard work, especially if done thoughtfully and prayerfully, is worth it. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who have seen my stress and weariness and have continuously reminded me that the word “no” is easy to say, powerful to speak and worth being heard.
Slowly but surely I am learning to be thoughtful about what I fill my time with. Slowly…but surely. I think we will find that taking time to look at what is consuming us and distracting us will provide great perspective and ultimately great peace.