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Is Having It All Worth Having?

Three practices that help me focus on what matters.

The woman who has it all always look flawless. She’s an immaculate homemaker, devoted mother, stylish decorator, exciting wife, gourmet chef, thoughtful friend, and successful worker. Before you get down on yourself for not measuring up, though, realize that the woman who has it all is a mythical creature as rare as a unicorn.

Whether it’s having it all, doing it all, or being it all, our culture puts intense pressure on women to be visibly successful in every area of life. The Huffington Post blog article “Never Enough” describes this angst:

As women, we overcompensate in so many ways because, for whatever reason, we feel like somewhere deep inside we aren't enough. . . . As women, we need to stop comparing ourselves to some ideal that just doesn't exist—it's a fantasy that other women are a perfect combination of happy, smart, successful, skinny, and perfect as mothers.

Why do we buy into this fantasy and beat ourselves up for not measuring up?

Is it Jesus who’s calling us to do it all? Certainly not! Jesus invites us to lay down heavy loads and weary lives in exchange for his easy yoke and light burden (Matthew 11:28–30). To do this, we need to first embrace a biblical reality: Yes, we are not enough (and we will never be enough), but Jesus is more than enough. In Christ, we are already God’s beloved masterpiece, created for good works he has planned in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10). When we stop judging ourselves by the world’s values, we can stop the endless striving for more.

God promises to give us all we need for all he has called us to do. In the face of our multiple roles and overscheduled lives—especially as women in ministry—we must lean into the person God made us to be. Here are three practices that help me fight against cultural expectations and embrace who I am in Christ:

1. You do you.

When my daughter’s volleyball team was looking for a team mom, I asked her if I should volunteer. “Don’t do it,” she told me. “You don’t have time and it’ll stress you out.”

“You’re right,” I said wistfully. “But I wish I could be the super mom volunteer that everyone depends upon and admires.” Sarah responded, “That’s for moms who stay home and love doing that stuff. Mom, you do you.”

She was right. I work full-time and don’t have space for this demanding volunteer role. There had been a season earlier in my life when I had the time and passion to volunteer in my kids’ activities. That season has passed and my kids no longer need this from me. My current priorities require a different allocation of my limited resources of time and energy.

This is the key to a sustainable life. You can do many different things, but not necessarily at the same time. As Ecclesiastes tells us, there’s a season for everything under heaven. Different seasons call for more attention to specific roles or tasks in our lives. There will be times when work is extra demanding, relationships need more investing, kids require closer supervision, or ministries are more challenging. Our priorities will shift over time depending on the needs around us, perhaps even within a given week. We must let go of our compulsion to do more than we can realistically accomplish in a given amount of time. We can’t have it all—at least not all at once. The good news, though, is that God is with us through it all.

I have since adopted my daughter’s phrase “you do you.” This reminds me to focus on what God is inviting me into rather than squeezing myself into cultural expectations that feed my ego but starve my soul. So often, we overfill our schedules because we want to promote our image as women who can do it all. We wear busyness and productivity as badges of honor. Yet, contentment and peace come when we follow God’s leading and timing.

To be fully present with whatever and whomever God has put before us requires an honest assessment of our priorities and a wise allocation of our precious resources of time and attention. Make a regular practice of asking God what your priorities need to be in this season of life, this week, or even this day. Then choose to invest in endeavors that fit who you are now and who you want to be in the future.

2. Good enough is good enough.

As a recovering overachiever, I still cringe at the thought of giving less than 100 percent to something I’m working on. But for the last decade, the Holy Spirit has been working to set me free from perfectionism. I no longer define my value by what I produce. I’ve found that good enough is usually good enough. I’m continually learning to give myself grace, set realistic goals, and stop comparing myself to others.

For example, I used to criticize myself at potlucks for not cooking fantastic homemade dishes for everyone to “ooh and ahhh” over. But I usually don’t have the time, desire, or skills to pull that off. So now I bring the bag salad and that’s good enough. Last semester, I turned in a term paper for a seminary class that was at about 80 percent of my effort because it was more important to be fully present at other activities that week. Sometimes the laundry piles up for too long and dinner becomes take-out too often—and that’s okay. When we figure out what our top priorities are, we can give 100 percent to those few areas and let the others things be “good enough.” The key is figuring out what matters most and releasing the rest.

3. Don’t write in the margins.

As women, we’re tempted to fill our lives with more and more responsibilities as we try to have it all. Every time we add new things without removing something, though, we end up squeezing out time for self-care. Several years ago, I started dedicating part of each Friday as a Sabbath for rest, reflection, prayer, reading, and other activities that feed my soul. Yet, when my schedule gets tight, I encroach upon this precious time to my detriment.

Just as we don’t write in the margins of a sheet of paper, we need to clear and protect the margins in our lives. We need bits of time every day or every week to refuel and just hang out with Jesus. When we crowd out this space with endless to-do lists, we’re more likely to succumb to the world’s demands and expectations. It’s not surprising that the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23 first makes his sheep lay down in green pasture, leads them beside quiet waters, and refreshes their soul. This usually happens when we meet God in the margins, the intentionally open spaces where the Holy Spirit reminds us of who we are and to whom we belong.

The abundant life Jesus offers in John 10:10 is not the cultural fantasy of having it all. Jesus promises something radically different and so much better than the success, status, and comfort our world values. Christ, who is our life (Colossians 3:3–4), is offering himself and the promise of his Spirit’s powerful, constant presence within us. Because Jesus is enough, the life he offers us is more than enough.

Carolyn Taketa is the Executive Director of Small Groups at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California.

March10, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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