Thursday, November 04, 2010

Balancing Plates

When I was a kid, I played some pretty high-stress board games. Perfection & Operation gave me many, many grey hairs at an early age. And then there was this one:

Did anyone else have Don't Tip the Waiter? The object of the game was to carefully pile plates on the waiter's tray without causing him to tip over. And if you do tip the waiter, you'll have to tip the waiter... you'll lose all your money and you're gonna lose the game... I was convinced that that game was invented just for my brothers to have another way to torture me.

These days, in ministry, it seems a lot of people are playing a game of real life 'Don't Tip the Waiter" - they keep adding one more thing and one more thing to their tray they are carrying around until they feel like they're going to tip over.  I completely understand this feeling. I get accused of packing too many things into my everyday life much more often than I like.

So I really do have empathy for people who tell me they can't serve in church because they have too much on their 'plate'. I can't even throw one single stone. I do, however, want so badly to give them a tip...they're making a huge mistake.

You see, when we hear that whisper in our ear that says 'you have too much on your plate'- oftentimes it's quite true.  On any given day, I have about 39 majillion extra activities jammed into my schedule and about a bizzillion of those are likely unnecessary. But the key to choosing the right thing to take off the 'plate' is not to just randomly cancel activities- or pick the ones that seem the easiest to back out of- or will make the most people happy- or will cost us the least to quit. Instead, we have to pray and ask God which items He'd have us cut back on or eliminate or even add because just shuffling plates around willy-nilly could cause us to topple over.

But how do you know what God would pick? Well, beside the obvious stuff- those things that are straight out sinful- sometimes we have to play a little game of 'Does this sound like something God would say?'  That's when you take some time in prayer, and reading the Word & reflecting on the character of our Lord... and then you try filling in the blanks like this:

Does this sound like something God would say...
 Your plate is too full, My child! What you need to do is stop serving me! I know you are overwhelmed, so why don't you just sit back, relax, and sleep that extra hour on Sunday morning. That will make ALL the difference! You'll have more time every single day! You'll be rested! You'll be perky! You'll have time to spare!  ?
Or does this sound a little more accurate...
Your plate is too full, My child! What you need to do is limit your time on the computer! If you cut back just 2 hours a day, imagine how much time you could save! You could spend more time talking to me! You could spend time chatting with your kids after dinner! You could truly train them up in the way they should go! ?

I can't claim to speak for God, and I certainly would never want to put words in His mouth- and this certainly isn't meant to make anyone feel guilty about decisions they've already made... but I do think it's important that we take the time to discern who's talking when we're hearing a whisper in our ear.

Sometimes, God DOES call us out of ministry- and there are all kinds of reasons. Often (okay, really often) the things God tells us to do don't make a lot of sense, and so plugging them into a formula won't always work. But there is something that NEVER happens-  God will NEVER ask us to do something (or not do something) that will contradict His Word or His character. They trick is to become very familiar with His character. And that means not just reading and praying when you have a decision to make... it means spending time with Him every day.

If God calls us to do something, He will provide everything we need to do it- and He won't ask us to quit before His appointed time just because things get rough. He tells us in the Bible to seek Him first- and He'll take care of everything we need. He'll carry us through to finish out our commitments, to run the rest of the race... and to find a balance to our proverbial 'plates.'

Be encouraged, my fellow plate balancers- God will guide you as you figure out what to put on (and take off) your plate... and when to do it. Don't worry about tipping over- just make sure you're looking Up!

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith
Hebrews 12:2 

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6



Carpool Queen said...

I really need to rethink my schedule. I know there's a lot of fluff time in there that could be used SO much more wisely.

lisasmith said...

God has really been showing me lately how I can get the time I seem to complain about not having.

Juggling life is mighty hard!! It seems I'm always setting down my waiter tray and rearranging my plates!! How I wish we had a magic formula to getting balanced and staying there!!

I'm missing you... maybe we can have a phone convo soon???

God's Guitar Girl said...

Such a timely word. I am at a temptation point in my life -- one where I am tempted to be involved in a new church that is chock-full of amazing service opportunities. I understood God clearly when we moved that my calling, right now, is to serve in the home and worship in the pews with my family. Now I'm seeing real need and opportunity to serve as a church musician. I will be listening closely to see just what God would have me do.

Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

Nice post as usual. I can say, for one, that I have spent about a month feeling mighty sorry for myself when that time could be spent serving others. It's a balance game for sure. If you spend too much time taking care of others, not yourself, you fall. Same the other way. Your right: Seek God first.

Anna Marie said...

Ooh you've reminded me of a verse I've been chewing over for a while now..."No-one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier"
There are so many "affairs of this life" that we can choose not to be entangled in and then find we have lots of space to engage in His Service- whatever that is...
Thanks for the reminder.

Halfmoon Girl said...

I am finally getting back to the bloggy world and am catching up! I still remember Perfection- that game stressed me out so much. I can still hear that timer thing making that horrible noise as time ran down! Great post- so true- God will not ask us to do anything that contradicts His character, and the way to know His character is to know HIM!

Jenster said...

This post is vintage His Girl stuff! Why? Because it speaks to me right where I am RIGHT NOW!

1 - as a church staffer I see first hand the frustrations of ministry staff who struggle to get the needed volunteers. One would think in a fairly large church we would have to turn people away (thanking them profusely, of course.)

2 - personally, how many times do I put off "serving" in some form or capacity until I finish reading/writing/washing/cleaning/ watching/whatever.