I think Fall is the season of feeling like you should do “more.” Does anyone else experience this? There are needs and wants all around us, and I really do love to help… The kids soccer teams need more referees or team parents; the kids schools want volunteers for the classrooms, for councils and committees, and for their PTA meetings and fundraisers; the church needs more nursery workers and Sunday School teachers and home group leaders; the local foster care community needs people to engage more to help provide transportation and meals for families.
Then there are the “shoulds” that we feel internally, even if they aren’t expressed desires from outside sources. For example, the feeling that I should do more preparation for the history lessons for home school; I should read more for my professional development; I should spend more time preparing for my mentorship times with girls; I should spend more individual time with each of my children; I should read more about trauma in young children; I should train more for my half marathon; I should do more sit-ups; I should cook more new recipes; I should find and use more coupons; I should dust more often; I should call those friends I keep thinking of and praying for, but not calling; I should journal more; I should pick up my violin more often, and on and on…
Our culture in the United States is full of “more.”
So how do we live in this culture without being consumed by it? Because, honestly, if I let that kind of thinking dominate my mental state during a particular day, what might result? Well, best case scenario, I feel inadequate and guilty. Worst case scenario, I reinforce false concepts of the gospel in others, so that they think Christianity is about “measuring up.” For example, I might (through my actions or words) subtly reinforce my daughter’s tendency (unfortunately inherited from me) to base her identity on how well she is doing and how much she is getting done…
A few possible mental directions come to mind in response to this pressure:
- I can go “all bad” on myself by resigning myself to the idea that I am just a failure—I simply cannot measure up to people’s expectations of me or even what would I think would make me the “ideal” mom/lawyer/etc.
- I can just go for it, and try to add as many things as I can, ultimately finding that I am not feeling better about any of it and instead feel burned out and frustrated that doing more didn’t result in the magical sense of “rightness” that I perceived would come in some strange recess of my mind.
- I can just decide to banish all thought of inadequacy from my mind and “try really hard” to just not care what others think.
But I don’t really like any of those options. They don’t seem like solutions; they are more like reactions…. They each fail to address the deeper root in my heart of wanting to please others, wanting to seem good and “above average,” so to speak.
What, then, is the real solution? God’s Word points us to focus our hearts and minds on the person of Christ—on God himself. We need to remember that He is “all,” so we don’t need “more.” He can give us all wisdom that we need (Js 1:5). He is the one worthy of our work and our effort, so we should choose to do all we do for Him, and not for the approval of others (Col 3:23). He is the one who establishes our plans and allows our way to succeed (Prov 3:5-6, Ps 37:5, Prov 16:3).
Even more importantly, He is the one who allows me to have the right motives in what I do (through the power of the Holy Spirit and the fruit He produces) and who has given me an identity rooted in Him, not in how well I am doing (Ephesians 1). But why is this last concept so hard to internalize, even after years and years of experiencing God’s unconditional love as his adopted child? [Adoption is an important concept in scripture helping us understand the permanency and security of our relationship with God when we place our faith in him.] I think it is because the culture continues to speak so loudly counter to these truths. For example, college students consistently experience the pressure and message that if they don’t get just the right grades and just the right internships, their dreams of career success will fall crashing to the ground; parents are consistently fed the idea that if they don’t offer their children enough extracurricular opportunities, their children will be at a disadvantage later; children are told (whether directly or indirectly) they are “bad kids” if they don’t meet behavioral expectations or don’t succeed academically; career women are told that they are failing to advance the important cause of women if they decide to take time off for a few years to focus on their kids.
What will we let speak to our hearts? I want it to be God’s Word for me. I want to serve out of joy and contentment in who I am and who God has made me to be and how He sees me, not based on how I think I measure up to the expectations of culture or colleagues or friends.