Sunday, October 4, 2009

Decluttering the terreplein

MW Word of the day terreplein: \TAIR-uh-playn\ noun

Meaning: the level space behind a parapet of a rampart where guns are mounted

"Share my yoke with me - it's bearable and we will pull it together," said Jesus.

We've all seen people staggering under stuff that had nothing to do with Jesus' yoke. Stressed, burdened down, stretched almost to breaking, we can't figure out why life is so hard. Where is the joyful abundance Jesus promises? The spiritual terreplein where our gifts and strengths reside is so cluttered with inessentials and obligations that we fear burnout. Sometimes we doubt that the Christian life is worth living. Stress and fatigue threaten to overtake God's offer of joy and peace.

"Does this belong to you?" I learned to ask when talking to people about their responsibilities. "Is this something people expect of you, or is this something God is asking of you?"

We all hope to serve well. But circumstances and seasons come and go: even things we did with great anticipation need to be reevaluated regularly. Ministers and "good" Christians seem to have the hardest time saying no or quitting when their time to serve ends.

For me, this season of life belongs to service at Northwest and study. I've gifted away craft supplies, cleared space for academics, and said no to many things. Yet I'm wearing down physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I'm crabby, stressed, and maxed out. Friendships, time for prayer and spiritual refreshment, and my academic writing have suffered. What's going on?

I recently read a wonderful article by Angela Craig about setting "the good" aside for "the best." Angela is a smart, funny, young minister who has many choices of service because of multiple gifts. She wrote about her intentionality for finding God's direction through the thrilling maze of possibilities.

Listening to God in prayer today, I heard the still small Voice giving me advice I have given others, "Evaluate each part of life. Is this what I am asking you to do? Are you willing to say 'no' or 'not now, sorry!' to everything else? (EVERYTHING else?!) Or are you stubbornly going to suffer by keeping a hand in everything you want to do?"

Sigh. What kind of answer can we give to such questions? God gives us fair warning in scripture that life belongs to him. He designates 24 hours to each person, with work, rest, and relationships in balance. When we're out of whack, it is our own doing.

"I wish I had 26 hours a day," someone said to me at the minister's retreat last week. EEEK. No thank you.

This week I'm in strict tandem training, learning what the easy yoke feels like. It feels so unfamiliar that it will take a while to rework my posture to accept it, but I'm game to try!

What do you need to shed in your life, maybe just for autumn, but maybe for good?

Read more:
*Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 40:1-5 NIV

*No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

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