“I’m exhausted,” a friend said, collapsing into a chair. She was considering cutting back on some of her activities.
“You can’t do everything,” I offered.
In no way was I preaching to her; I was simply repeating my own personal mantra: I can’t do it all.
The old anti-drug slogan, “Just say no!” is hard for me to apply to a worthy cause. My friend had the same problem. There are so many worthwhile activities that need our participation, not to mention all the work required to keep our homes up and running.
When my children were small, I read a wonderful little booklet titled, Tyranny of the Urgent. I learned that urgent tasks are not the same as important tasks. Urgent tasks may scream at me to be completed, but they are things that I wouldn’t mind having someone else do, like clean house, shampoo the carpet, or wash the car.
But important things are those that I would not let someone else do: read bedtime stories, make brownies for a family picnic, or care for a sick loved one.
The urgent can usually wait; the truly important cannot.
But what about all those important things outside my home that vie for my limited time? How do I choose?
Jesus told the parable of 10 young women who waited for a traditional wedding celebration to begin. They waited all night. Five were prepared with extra oil for their lamps, and five were not. When the call rang out at midnight, all ten got up, and the five without enough oil asked the others to share.
Jesus said the five with extra oil did not share with the others. Gently, but wisely, they said, “No.”
The point of the parable was to be prepared. But I believe the Lord was also trying to show us something about personal boundaries. Sometimes we have to say no rather than use up everything we have and then be caught short.
I believe that applies to our energy, time and emotional strength as well as oil.
Will the world come to a premature end if I don’t attend that workshop? Do I really need to serve on another committee? Will anyone care if my floor isn’t mopped today?
Psalm 16:5, 6 says, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; … The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; …”
That portion and those boundary lines denote limits for our blessing and for our good. Life without limits can be dangerous.
So what do we do as Christians who want to do the right thing? Do we give up all our charitable efforts?
Instead, we pray about the demands and requests on our time, and ask God what His priorities are for our lives.
After we know for certain, we “just say no” to everything else. The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. That would include a gentle “no” without impatience or hatefulness.
And finally, we must not let guilt rob us of our rest. The Lord tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28).
If you end up with an extra afternoon and “nothing” to do, spend some time outside enjoying the cooler weather and fall sunshine. Go for a walk, or just talk to the Lord, praising him for leading you in your decisions.
And be sure to thank him for helping you to “just say no.”