Provided the ever-changing Arkansas weather doesn’t snow us in tomorrow, I should be heading off to our church’s women’s retreat. I cannot tell you how excited I am. It’s taken years, but I’ve finally learned the benefits of allowing others to help me. I’m learning that, believe it or not, I don’t have to be involved in planning and running everything.
According to a personality test I took while at a leadership conference in high school, I’m an ESTJ.
ESTJ is the farthest left on the scale of 16 personality types for this test. Basically, we ESTJs are vulcans. We live logically, and we trust authority. We live to fix what’s broken, and we want everything to have order. Spontaneity is not just a foreign word, but an enemy concept. I mean, who honestly does things without pondering their repercussions for at least 24 hours?
I like the way the Personality Page describes us when it comes to social gatherings as well. “ESTJs are take-charge people. They have such a clear vision of the way that things should be, what they naturally step into leadership roles. They are self-confident and aggressive. They are extremely talented at devising systems and plans for action, and at being able to see what steps need to be taken to complete a specific task.”
In short, I love organizing events. I might not (probably don’t) understand all the details that it takes to set up an event or outing, but I can see the picture, who needs to do what, in order to get the job done. And while this can be a useful task at times, it’s really easy to bite off more than I can chew, or to allow too much to be put on my shoulders.
For example, last year, I was the event coordinator for a women’s group I was involved in. The women were wonderful, and we had some sweet times, but I was suffocating under the load. In just one spring, I was in charge of setting up at least five events, two of which were very large, such as a women’s retreat and hosting an event honoring veterans’ spouses. With my OCD tendencies, my mind ran wild with all the things that could go wrong, and while I worked, did nothing it seemed but eat, sleep, and drink the events. Even when I wanted to escape, my mind could not.
And it didn’t help that I’m not very good at using the word, “No.”
By the end of that spring, my mental and physical health were suffering. I was struggling with bouts of stomach pain so horrible I would nearly pass out, and my anxiety attacks were out of control. My tics were off the charts, and I was an emotional mess. Needless to say, my husband supported my decision to quit as the event coordinator. In fact, I left the group. As wonderful as they were, I knew that if I went back, I would be roped into a position I didn’t have the strength to hold.
I guess that’s why I’m so excited about this retreat. Don’t get me wrong, it felt great to see last year’s retreat through. The problem, however, was that I planned nearly all of it by myself. From the lessons to the leisure time, to the gifts to the games and prizes, I was it. As hard as it was, however, I think God used that spring to teach me a very important lesson:
We can’t do it all on our own. Sometimes, we have to allow other people to nourish our souls as well.
Before Freaking Out About, “IF NOT ME, THEN WHOM?!”, Please Read
And for those of you like me, who constantly ask, “What if no one else does it?” please take just a split second before you hyperventilate (just because that’s my first reaction, too). Believe it or not, we all need to rest. God made us physically and spiritually in need of others. He created us as creatures who depend on others to be their very best. Let’s take examples from the greatest in the Bible.
- After Christ was tempted in the desert (without giving in) for 40 days, Matthew 4:11 says, “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”
- Paul, one who had been taken in many times by various groups of Christians on his travels, urged the Ephesian Church in Ephesians 4:1-2, “…walk in a manner worth of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, breaing with one another in love.”
- In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14, Christians are told, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all.”
Now, if Christ, the King of Glory had to be strengthened by angels in His earthly body, how much more should we expect to need strengthening? Who among us has the strength of Christ? How much stronger are we expecting ourselves to be than God? If anyone really thinks he should perform better than Christ, that is, to continue on without encouragement and nourishment, than I think he has a greater problem than he’s aware of.
Also, the last two points are both admonishments for Christians to love other Christians. Over and over again in the Bible, we see the Church Fathers telling us to love one another.
“Now, Brittany,” you might say, “I’m trying to do just that! And if I’m not putting all my strength out to love on others, no one’s going to!” Ah, yes. I play that card, too. The fact of the matter is, however, that if we’re all running around constantly, expending all of our energy, who’s going to catch us when we fall?
After all, 1 Thessalonians talks about “the weak.” Sometimes, you’re going to be the weak one. And that’s okay, too.
Finally, Ecclesiastes 3:3-4 reminds us there is, “…a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
A Time for It All
There will be those days when you’re on fire, revved up with a full tank of love to power hose the world with. Sometimes, however, there will be those parts of life where we need time to heal, time to break down, time to weep, and time to mourn. If you’re really living a full life, striving to glorify God in all you do, these times of weakness are inevitable because you’ll have given it your all to love on someone.
You just can’t forget the time it takes to heal, build up, laugh, and dance. My problem as the event coordinator was that I was already spent by the time we were halfway done with the season, and I didn’t take the time to ask for help, and I paid for it dearly. Christians who truly understand God’s love will do what 1 Thessolonians instructs, and encourage us when we’re fainthearted and weak, being patient with us as we heal.
All that to say I’m taking this year to heal. While I’m by no means disconnected from church or uninvolved, I lived through enough stress and panic and anxiety to understand that after getting done with that gig, I needed a while to heal. This is my time, and I’m taking it so I can go back out into the world and serve with my whole self again later. After all, I don’t want to cheat anyone by giving only a portion of what I’m capable of. And neither do you.
I love to plan, and I have a gazillion apps on my iPad Mini to prove it. This year, however, I’m looking forward to spending a weekend with my sisters-in-Christ at a retreat I didn’t plan, and am not running. I’m sure I’ll plan retreats again in the future. I love it too much not to. Next time, however, I’m going to work on delegrating, asking for help, and just saying, “no.”
It’s not going to be an easy task for this perfectionistic worrier, but it’s something God’s working on in me, and I know He’ll see it through. In the meantime, I’m going to make sure the tasks I take charge of are going to be healthy decisions for my mental health, my physical health, and my family. And that’s something I encourage you to do, too.
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