I don’t know if you have items in your home that are in more demand than others, that you can never seem to have enough of, that seem to disappear on a regular basis, but we certainly do. At times it has been tape. Good grief, where the heck is the tape? Scissors. Why can I never find the stinking scissors? How is there not one pair of decent scissors in this house? It has been de-tangler, certain food items, paper, but right now it is chargers. You know, chargers for the iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Kindles. In theory each of these devices came with its own charger that went into the room of their owner. In theory, each charger works and has the little white wall part still intact. In theory there should be approximately 742 working chargers in this house. BUT EVIDENTLY THERE IS ONE. No matter how many trips to Best Buy I make, no matter how many Amazon Prime boxes show up at my house with replacement chargers, there is one working, fully intact charger that makes the rounds all day long in this house. I have the iPad plugged in in the kitchen to refer to my Pinterest recipe as I am cooking dinner. I then move it to my bedside table to make sure my phone is charged so that my alarm will wake me in the morning. At some point in the middle of the night, my husband comes to bed, unplugs my phone, and moves the charger to his side of the bed to charge his own phone. On Saturdays, I’m ashamed to admit that my 5 year old will often wake me with the question, “Where is the iPad charger?” because he is ready for a little weekend Power Rangers binge. (Also, if you are wondering, a Beats Pill charger does work for a Kindle Fire, but Good Lord Child, where is your charger?)!
What this leaves us with is a bunch of devices all in the red zone. You know the red zone. The warning zone. The less than 20% zone. The “you better turn off and plug in soon or it’s going to shut down” zone. Nothing is fully charged. Ever.
It is about capacity, isn’t it? These devices only have the capacity to perform fully when they are fully charged. There is limited capacity and the battery is always decreasing, it is always being drained. When we are looking at our phones, we can literally watch it. We can refer to an actual number to tell us what our battery life is, what capacity is still available to us. 47%. 32%. Uh oh, 20%! Red zone! Plug in! Shut down! Or maybe you are like me and you push it to 12%, 8%, 2%, because for the love of Amazon Prime I can’t find a charger anywhere!!!
Don’t you wish we had that with ourselves? With our lives, our sanity, our spiritual and emotional tanks? A little number that flashed in front of us to say, “Hey, warning! You’re battery is low. You need to shut it down and plug in before you take this on. You are functioning in the red zone!” I could use a measurable signal, because just like I push it with my phone, and I tend to wait until the “miles until empty” is in the single digits on my gas gauge;
I function in the red zone most of the time.
I will never forget the day I found out I was pregnant with that little blonde, Power Ranger-watching, tornado of a 5 year old boy. I hate to admit it, but I was crippled. I was crippled with the thought of one more. My oldest was going to start kindergarten in the fall and I was all ready to enter “big kid” world. I had two others besides to drag with me to all of her school activities and functions. We had barely put away the decorations from #3’s first birthday party. Also, 4 kids seemed a little crazy. I had come from a 3 kid family, my husband had come from a 3 kid family, my mom had, his mom had… 4 seemed excessive. At the time the only person I knew with 4 kids was one wise, beautiful, gracious friend. She kindly welcomed me onto her couch that evening, tears, snot, anxiety and all. And she listen and she hugged me and most of all, she showed me that she was surviving. And all 4 of her excessive kids were extraordinary. And she said one of the wisest things anyone has ever said to me. It went something like this, “Listen, everyone has a full plate. Some of our plates are just bigger than others.”
So this is what I know about myself: I have a serving platter sized plate. It is big. I have a long battery life. I have a large capacity for life, people, activities. Abundant life comes with ABUNDANCE OF LIFE. Which is a lovely way of saying, A LOT OF STUFF, PEOPLE, SCHEDULES, ASSIGNMENTS, MESS, and DYNAMICS to manage. And I can do it. I don’t know if I was born with a serving sized plate or if it grew over the years out of necessity. Get married and move a million miles away from all you know? I can do that. Have your first two babies 13 months apart (a million miles away from help)? Got it. Have two more? Yep. Part-time homeschool them all, manage 7 acres, keep the house clean, keep the laundry done, host the party, host every holiday, manage every activity, be the mom backstage every performance, shepherd your tribe well, decide what Bible Study we will do next, intercede for those you love, send the email, write a blog, teach a class, pour into that friend who needs you, have grace when your husband doesn’t make it home for dinner again? Right. On it. Done. I can do it. But even my serving sized plate gets too heavy, too full, messy with things falling over the sides. I can do it, but I’m usually doing it out of the red zone.
Every time one of my tribe has a birthday, we go around on a Wednesday night, while enjoying her favorite dessert, and tell one thing we love or appreciate or absolutely respect about her. What a gift it is. A couple of weeks ago it was the birthday of my oldest friend here in this desert town. There are so very many things I am thankful for in her life, but as I began speaking, this is what came out, “I really appreciate how well you set boundaries. You know your capacity and you operate from it. I have seen how well it serves you, your husband, and your kids. I respect that in you so very much.” Sexy, right? I know. But I sincerely meant it. This girl does not suffer from FOMO. She knows when she is run down, when her kids are, when her husband needs more from her therefore “out there” will get less. She goes home when she is tired. She says no when it’s best. She is wise with her capacity and shuts it down and plugs in when she is in the red-zone. I respect this quality in her so much because, obviously, I tend to be unhealthy in this area of my life. In years past, I may have looked at her perceived smaller plate and scoffed. I may have thought, “push through.” I may have felt judged by her boundaries, living exhausted in the margins. I may have viewed her wisdom as weakness but not anymore…. It looks brilliant from down here in the suffocating red zone.
Just because I can do it doesn’t mean that I should. Just because I have a serving platter sized plate doesn’t mean I have to heap it full. My insightful mother once told me simply, “Harder isn’t more spiritual.” Ouch. I think that I think it is. No more.
Shauna Niequist’s breathtaking book Present over Perfect is speaking volumes to me in this area of my life right now. In the chapter entitled “Happy Medium” she says, “What it seems the world wants me to be: really skinny and really tired. If I could shrink and hustle, I’d be right there, skinny and tired. Shrink and Hustle. This is what our culture wants women to be; skinny and tired, from relentlessly shrinking and hustling. Exhaustion and starvation are the twin virtues of that world, but I will not live there anymore.” Me neither, Shauna. Exhaustion and starvation. Obviously we know what our culture has to say to women in regards to body image, but I find myself starved of boundaries, starved of connection, starved of real rest, continually Searching for Selah, continuing to believe the lie that harder is in fact more spiritual, that I am somehow stronger than the red zone.
You see, I don’t want my life to be merely “do-able.” I know I can do it. I can check it off my list and accomplish all the tasks, and run circles around what is expected of me. But, I think I am past the years of barely surviving. I am over the red zone, the 8 miles til empty days, the heaping messy serving platter. I am seeking to pour out into those things which in turn fill me up. Life-giving relationships, not life-draining ones. I want my “yes’s” to count, not just out there but in here. I want the wisdom of knowing my own capacity for things and the strength to operate out of them.
So, back to the original question, WHERE IS THE CHARGER? Well, that is the wonderful news. Though there really is only one charger, He is everywhere all at once. You don’t have to wait your turn or go searching for Him. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary (red zone) and burdened (full serving platter) and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Why can I not learn this lesson?) He is our charger. I am trying to sit with Jesus more and bring Him my agenda less. I am trying to literally BE STILL and picture His eyes as He looks at my weary, burdened, red-zoned self. I am trying to visualize His capable hands removing some of the demands on me- the one’s I asked for and the ones I didn’t. I am trying to see the love, the energy, the simple life flowing from Him to me. I am trying to watch the battery charge, the bars grow, the capacity be filled. It is revolutionary. It is the simplest thing. You see, it is not just a shutting down, it’s the plugging in as well. Not only to the One who charges you, but to the things He is calling you to do that charge your batteries. It’s not only a cutting away but an adding to. Necessary no’s leave room for life giving yeses. Wise boundaries free up the margins for abundance in the forgotten corners.
So don’t be mad at me if I go home early. Don’t take it personally if I don’t volunteer to host. Don’t be surprised by some well-prayed-over “no’s.” I know I will still have red-zone days. As the holidays approach, I know large serving platters will be needed. But I will reject the lie that hard equals spiritual all the time. I will not starve myself. I will not pursue exhaustion just because I know I can do it. I will set boundaries that reflect the wisdom of capacity and shut it down and plug in more. I’m not completely sure what this will look like but I plan to spend the next decade trying to figure it out. And I’m sorry if I ever judged your small plate. I’m sorry if I ever scoffed at your red-zone wisdom. At almost 40 years old, I want to be like you when I grow up.