The Overcommitter Quitter

We have all known at least one. Maybe you are one? That person who overcommits only to quit before the follow through and usually with only hours notice. I know this person well because I was one. There are times when I still slip back into the pattern of pleasing. It is one of the things that I detest most about myself! A defect of character found often in my blind spot.

No one likes a person who will not follow through. The kind of person who is the first to volunteer and then call at the last-minute or better yet, text to say that there is just no way they can make it. They are so sorry, but…

The worst part about this behavior is that it sets the person on the other end up to fail from the very beginning. It deems the offender undependable. Few things are worse than when you take someone at their word only to find that their word has been spread so thin that it means virtually nothing.

I must make a conscious effort not to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way. In an ideal world everyone would always be happy with me. My work would be unbelievable every time, even if something I’m not versed in. Everyone would want me on their team to offer my ideas and then carry them out.

Are you laughing out loud?! I know! It’s I N S A N E! It’s also exhausting. For me, overcommitting is just another way of feeding my ego. It’s Edging God Out. I don’t intentionally push God to the side. It happens subtly. That’s why ego is so tricky. It makes those of us who overcommit and under deliver look like the victim. Many people will even feel sorry for us.

Self-centeredness often comes disguised as an opportunity to help someone else. At least mine does. I have to look at my motives or the next thing you know I’m shh-shing God and striving for the acceptance of man. That which is not lasting, but feels so rewarding in the moment.

Henri Nouwen says it best when discussing The Temptation to be relevant. “I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears, all dependent simply on how I was perceived at the moment.”

I’ve shared with you before that I have to strip myself of everything, stand before a full-length mirror and speak aloud to God. To some it sounds crazy while to others it’s genius.

It has been many years since I was blindly living my life to please everyone else. I will use Nouwen’s words again when he was asking God for clear direction with important decisions and he said, “I was living in a very dark place and the term “burnout” was a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death.”

When my soul purpose is to please Christ, the one who made me and everything on earth and in heaven, my life can be rich and full without being overwhelming. When my attention drifts from the giver and sustainer of all that is good, it’s only a matter of time before I am brought to my knees.

I have released myself from the chains of people pleasing through overcommitment. I have some incredible friends who, in their wisdom, with kindness and love, help me back to my center. It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s work, but I am here to tell you it is attainable. You will need someone you trust to point things out to you without the fear of being chastised. Like anything else that’s worth having, it means sacrifice and transparency.

Well, what are you? Are you an overcommitter? An overcommitter quitter? Or a healthy balance when it comes to demands?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning,
that without listening speaking no longer heals,
that without distance closeness cannot cure”
~Henri Nouwen~

A Stranger in my Own Skin

Have you ever felt restless…almost like you’re allergic to your skin?

If you have, you know what I’m talking about and you probably just became a little uncomfortable recalling that feeling. If you haven’t, try to imagine thousands of ants crawling on you… beneath your skin.

I had all sorts of “isms” that I used for years to cope with the feelings and happenings that I wasn’t sure how to walk through or even sit in, for that matter. They worked really well…until they didn’t anymore.

So here I am, almost 9 years later and have learned to meet life on life’s terms…mostly.
My dad called the other day and just like every time he calls, when I answered (thanks to caller ID), “Hey dad.” He responded with, “Hey, My Joy! How are you?”

My reply, “Do you want the honest ‘how much time do you have, cause this is gonna take a while’ answer or the generic, ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ to avoid discussing what’s really going on answer?”
To which he replied, “Let’s try the honest answer.”

“I’m restless! Like, the down in my soul kind of restless. Not the, I’m bored, I need a change of scenery restless. Do you know what I mean?!”

“Yes!” he said. “I know exactly what you mean!”

I proceeded to tell him about the past few days and that after the boys had left for soccer that day, I sat down on the hardwood floor, leaned my back against the wall and just acknowledged the way the floor felt beneath me and the wall behind me. It was solid and definite. There was no argument about it’s existence. Anyone could see that it was there.

There are times when nothing in this life gives that assurance.

As I glanced up through the windows of our front door, it took me back to December 2007. I was 7 months pregnant with our youngest and our 1 year old was in respiratory distress at Children’s Hospital. After the third day in the hospital, I came home to take a shower in my own bathroom and attempt to rest. After walking through the door that chilly December day, I collapsed in a pile in this same spot, looked out through the windows of this same door, at a grey winter sky, and wept.

When I say that I was weeping, I mean, it was so far beyond the ugly cry. It was with my entire body…shaking violently. I didn’t care that snot was mixing with tears and running into my mouth and down my face or that my cheek was pressed to the hard floor. All I could pray between sobs was, “Help me God. Please help me. I have no control over my child’s health…or this growing baby in my belly…or my daughter’s anxiety about pretty much everything. I’m so weary. You’re going to have to help me…please.”

This time, almost 4 years later, I closed my eyes and said, “Lord, I want to know you more than just better. I want to know you intimately. I want to seek you with perseverance and determination. I long for the continuous assurance of your presence. My spirit has a hunger like I have never known.”

My dad’s response was, “This is a really good thing.”

“WHAT?!”, I said. “How can this be good?! I feel like I’m going to implode! It feels as if my spirit cannot be contained any longer by this imperfect shell encasing it. I’m not even sure I know how to pray. Most of the time I either say the Lord’s Prayer or something along the lines of , ‘God, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being so good to someone as undeserving as I. Amen.’”

SIDE NOTE: It really helps that my dad is a life coach. (a.k.a. An expert at not only talking people off the ledge, but giving them clear direction once they reach safe ground.)
I had not quite reached my ledge, but I was inching closer by the hour.

The summary of his advice to me was this…

  • The desire to seek spiritual nourishment is from God. It doesn’t have any negative connotations.
  • He put this longing in us from conception…a hole of sorts. Some people don’t recognize it or rather, they choose to fill it with other things. But it is never satisfied and seems to grow larger the longer it goes unfilled.
  • There is only one thing that can fill up that hole. (This is where you insert that perfectly timed answer. “I know, I know…God.) Of course that’s true, but there is so much more to God than the fact that He fills a void.
  • As a follower of Christ, the deeper we go, the feeling sometimes is, the less we know… the farther away the finish line looks. This is not a bad thing. We will never know everything there is to know about God until we get to heaven and maybe not even then!
  • Find a place to be quiet. Relish the silence. Even if it’s for 30 seconds and wait for God’s voice. You don’t have to say the perfectly scripted prayer. You don’t have to go down your checklist of sins or wants or anything else. Simply, be present and listen.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “The real “work” of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing…that demands real effort.

In the words of Mother Teresa, “Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.

Here’s the deal…I have 3 very active children, a husband who I adore, a job, along with a multitude of other things that justify me never taking the time to find a quiet place and listen for the voice that completes me. It’s a choice.

Today, I choose to take the time out needed, however much life allows, close my eyes, unclinch my fists and open my palms to the heavens (the explanation for that is another post all together)  and bask in the silence while just being in His presence.

Is it difficult for you to be still, much less quiet?
 No matter what stage of life you’re in, we will always have restless times that
prayerfully will only last moments instead of hours or days. 
How do you combat those times of restlessness in your own skin?