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the struggle with "all"

Once at a ladies' group I attended, a speaker shared a talk based on this premise:

"You can't do it all, be it all, have it all, all the time." (Or at least it was something like that.) I can't honestly remember any of the subsequent parts of the teaching, but this quote was so catchy that it stuck with me.

As absolutely true as each part of this opening statement is and will always be, doesn't it seem like we tend to think the opposite is true? Like we really think we can or should be able to do/be/have it all, all the time?

Of course we probably would not outright say anything along these lines, and most of us who know God - and the fact that He is God and we are not - would agree that indeed, we cannot nor should we even try to attain this "all"-ness.

And yet...

How many of us carry around guilt because we didn't get enough done yesterday? Or weariness because the endless list of things we feel we need to do just keeps growing? Even as I'm writing this blog, I am keenly aware of things calling for my attention, from laundry to emails to reading more of one of those books I'm trying to finish to the dishes (always, always the dishes), and the list could go on and on.

If you were to ask me, do you really think you're supposed to do it all? I would of course say no, no human could actually do everything all the time. But if I know I'm not supposed to do it all, why do I still feel this continual sense of inadequacy? This nagging feeling that I'm going to let someone down, or maybe even just let myself down?

And what about being it all? Does anyone else ever feel like you're trying to be everything to everyone? Be present for all of your loved ones, sharing the right things at the right times but not becoming a burden. Show up in every way at your work, lead with wisdom and follow with humility. Be a good neighbor. Be friendly to people you meet as you walk. And don't forget to be fun and just enjoy life sometimes. But be smart about how you use your time too. After all, people are watching you.

That's not to even get into having it all. For me, it's often not necessarily about having material wealth or possessions. Where I can get tripped up is feeling like I ought to have more patience or more energy or the ability to make decisions faster or the right solution to a problem or perhaps a quicker sense of humor.

Whew. Again, I know it isn't healthy to try to be or have all these things on my own strength. Indeed if I try, I will always come up short. But do you ever wonder why we are so prone to falling into this way of thinking? Where did we ever get the idea that we can do/be/have it all? And how do we let go of it?

This is the part where I wish I could say I've got it. This is the answer, the one magical button we can push to get there and stay there. To finally be free forever from that pressure to do or be or have it all, all the time. Alas, I'm not sure that getting to this point was ever meant to be a once-and-done thing.

Romans 12:1-2 refers to our spiritual act of worship as offering ourselves as living sacrifices. I remember hearing once that the thing about a living sacrifice is that it will keep trying to crawl off the altar. Maybe the altar is the place where we remember anew that God is God and we are not. We offer ourselves to Him, broken and messy as we are, and we ask Him to use us to bring Him glory.

But then, before we know it, we're back to trying to do it all on our own or feeling overwhelmed from our attempts to be everything to everyone or wishing we had just a little more than what we have. What is wrong with us? Who can save us?

I like the description of Paul's struggle with maintaining the right mindset in The Message translation (from Romans 7:21-25):

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Maybe instead of wishing we could stop trying to do/be/have it all, the beauty and evidence of God's grace shows up when we keep coming back to this truth that only through Jesus can we be saved. We all may need to learn to accept our own limitations and recognize that God is the only One who can do/be/have it all, all the time. And we may need to learn that today, and then learn it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

As we seek to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, may God help us not to believe the lie that we can or should do/be/have it all. But may God also fill us with courage to do what we can. As Eugene Cho says, "We can't do everything but we can all do something". Maybe the key is beginning with prayer, with an acknowledgement of who we are and who God is and a commitment to continually rely on Him to be our all in all.

These words from the worship song "Hungry" seem like they may fit well for those times when we are faced again with the reality of our human frailty and need to be reminded of God's never-ending love that sustains us.

"Hungry I come to You For I know You satisfy I am empty But I know Your love does not run dry

So I'll wait for You So I'll wait for You

I'm falling on my knees Offering all of me Jesus, You're all this heart is living for

Broken I run to You For Your arms are open wide I am weary but I know Your touch restores my life So I'll wait for You So I'll wait for You

I'm falling on my knees Offering all of me Jesus, You're all this heart is living for"

Pray with me...

... God, may we always acknowledge You as the One who can do/have/be it all, all the time.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

... Lord, may we extend grace to each other as we serve and use our gifts in our schools, homes, churches, neighborhoods and wherever we are

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

... Father, would You bless each BCS/WCA family in this Easter season with a fresh understanding of who You are that would transform us individually and as a community

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory

~ Carrie Warner, BCS/WCA Prayer Team Coordinator

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for BCS/WCA. My plan is to publish weekly on Wednesdays, Lord willing. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you’d like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published.

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