By Becca Christensen
Six months into my time as an employee at Grace I’m sitting across from one of our executive pastors and he says ‘You started out with two bosses over two departments each and now you have a third – how do you think things are going?’ Funny you should ask I thought. Then I responded, ‘I feel overwhelmed. Not that I can’t get the work done. I can. But I can’t remember the last time I had enough space to have an original idea or to think ahead more than 24 hours’. He said, ‘that’s surprising coming from you. You’re so good at managing a lot’.
I am. Good at managing a lot. In fact, I got so good at managing a lot that I made myself physically sick for two years at my previous job from all the stress I was internalizing. That’s when I figured out the value of simplicity and the art of being honest when you’re overwhelmed.
I picked up Bill Hybels book ‘Simplify’ on the recommendation of a friend. Honestly, I didn’t expect him to say anything I hadn’t already learned the hard way (ie. Two hours of sleep isn’t enough, you can multitask too much, and ‘I’ll rest when I’m dead’ isn’t a healthy motto). What I instantly loved about the book is it wasn’t focused on doing less. It was also really honest about when you can do a lot but you start to feel frustrated or bitter with the people requiring so much of you. See, I like to be busy. I want to be busy doing the right things. I do not want to be annoyed with people’s requests or offers. And I don’t want to feel like I am doing everything and no one is helping me. Ever felt that way?
In Chapter One, he has you create a custom replenishment plan. How do you recharge? Now, force the time for those activities into your schedule. For me – I need time alone. Truly alone. Since I don’t work Fridays anymore – those are my morning to recharge. With coffee, extended quiet time, and usually a good library book. Where I use to feel bad saying I was ‘unavailable’ on a Friday morning – now I don’t. The time I schedule for me still counts. It’s on my calendar and it’s written in pen.
Hybels encourages you to be purposeful. He requires you to take a timeout to figure out if you’re in the right seat on the right bus. How many of us wish we’d thought that through before too many years spent in educational fields we later hated or couldn’t find jobs in? How many of us worked our way to the top in an industry or area only to look around and wonder, ‘how did I get here?’. In fact, people tell me all the time they wish they’d traveled more, read more, or worked somewhere they were passionate about ‘when they were my age’. Figuring out who you are and what life you want to live is crucial to living simplified.
Perhaps my favorite chapter would be yours. In Chapter Four, ‘From Restless to Fulfilled’ Hybels addresses the balance of passion and provision. How do you balance what you’re passionate about and using the gifts the Lord has put in you and providing for your family (which is a biblical principle as well). He talks about how to fill your passions cup if your job is only meeting the provision side AND how to make up the slack in provision if you get the chance to pursue your passions but the paycheck doesn’t quite pan out. This is so relevant for us as believers and he had great insight and shares his own personal experience.
There are even a few more surprising elements to Simplify that you might not expect. He covers forgiveness and living a less offended life (oh, yes, that). He talks about anxiety, which we know is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society and even in our kids! He talks about deepening your relationships. And for anyone still not feeling like they got hit between the eyes by the final two chapters – he covers getting out of ruts we get stuck in and moving forward.
I laugh when I share with people that it took reading a definition of fear that said ‘the need to be in control of all things’ to realize I had any fear struggles in my own life. Simplicity is a bit of the same for me. I always believed that if I could manage to get things done, that I was fine. As long as the quality of my work was still excellent, does anyone really care that I’m sick every day trying to make this schedule work? I care.
Four years later I am not just surviving, I’m thriving. I created space for original thoughts along with hopes, dreams, and rest. I want that for you. I still wake up at 4:30 in the morning but now it’s to go to the gym and to spend time reading because those are life giving for me. Your simplified life won’t look like mine. Deep down though, I think we all want that for ourselves. To feel balanced, passionate, rested, and available for what the Lord has for us.