Every year from August until September my normal routine gets disrupted. Normally I hate it.
The first month of classes is the most strategic time to be on campus. Students are more open to new relationships and commitments than any other time of the year. Thus, I spend much of my time manning info tables, passing out fliers, sticking labels with a list of our events on hundreds of water bottles, leading planning meetings with my leaders, and following up with students who filled out contact cards.
During my first four years with InterVarsity, I would abandon most of my favorite “extracurriculars” during this time.
Often, I wouldn’t exercise at all. I’m too tired.
I also wouldn’t take days off. But my students need me!
I was consumed by anxiety about how events would go. Everything was on my shoulders. God was maybe on the sidelines but I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying or doing. September would end and I would be depleted and exhausted.
Leading without balance and without dependence on God is rarely effective and never sustainable.
Adding & Subtracting
I wanted this year to be different. I knew that for a time, I couldn’t participate as often in activities such as writing and running. But I also knew that I couldn’t continue to be consumed by work. Veering to one extreme (no work, only play) or the other (only work, no play) wasn’t an option.
First, I decided to give myself permission to take a hiatus from certain activities- both on campus and off. The guilt trips had to stop. I needed to come to terms with the truth that I am a human being with real limits.
This meant I had to let go of shame.
Rather than internally scold myself when I didn’t exercise enough, I chose to believe that, really, it was ok that I ran a total of three miles during the week instead of ten.
Next, I gave myself permission to take time off campus so I could recharge and still be emotionally available to my friends and family.
This meant I had to trust.
I had to trust that when I took a full day off, God was going to take care of my current leaders and the new students and who I interacted with that week.
Did I trust that I could wait 24 hours to text a student?
Moreover, did I trust that God cared for my students and Greek InterVarsity more than I did?
A Time & Season
In this adding and subtracting, I struck a new balance in this busy season.
Most mornings, I was able to wake up slightly earlier to read Scripture and pray.
I listened to my body, scheduling time to run on less busy days and not feeling ashamed about snoozing on the couch during my first day off.
I started meeting with a spiritual director.
I recognized the Sabbath regularly.
And I took a full day off during one of my busiest weeks to go to a concert with my husband.
I was free to cut and add because I knew that this was just for a season. Not forever. But for a time. A familiar passage from Scripture emphasizes this point.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiates 3:1-8 (NIV)
Over the last month, I realized…
There is a time for writing and a time for passing out hundreds of water bottles to freshmen.
There is a time to engage with students and a time to take a day off, even if it feels counterproductive.
There is a time for being on campus until 2am and a time to turn off my computer and cell phone and be silent.
And God has taken care of the students and the ministry. This year, more students have shown interest in Greek InterVarsity than any other year.
As this month is ending, I feel energized rather than exhausted. I am ready to capitalize on the momentum that was built during the first month of the semester. I am able to continue to invest on campus and best of all, I don’t feel like a horrible friend and wife.
To thrive in busyness we need to let go of shame when we can’t do it all and embrace the truth that we have limits.
We need to trust that God cares far more for us and the people around us than we ever could.
We need, more than ever, to trust the words of Psalm 121.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (v. 7 &8)
When have you needed to take a hiatus from certain activities in your life? How did you extend grace to yourself and to others?
How have you thrived in times of busyness?