Being unbalanced.

Today I taught 6 lessons of English back-to-back.

Which was super-fun.

And super laughter-filled.

And super-tiring.

And a little confusing.

Because all my classes are a variety of English-learning levels (we teach 6 levels of English at the school), and my Saturday classes are a mix of adult and children’s lessons. And that means that by 3.30pm this afternoon I was going into my final lesson with less of, ‘Woop. Let’s nail some grammar’ and more of, ‘Grammar? We have grammar? I’m not even sure what language I’m speaking…’

My level 2 class talked about their hobbies, my level 1 class got really good at their self-introductions, my 1-1 classes were every topic from business to family members, and my kids taught me some eye-opening facts about J-pop (I can now sing say Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s name properly. She still scares me. As does the fact that my 12 year olds love her so much.)

Just to clarify, it’s not normal for me to teach this many lessons in one long straight. Today was an exception. My boss called me superwoman at the end of the day because I still had some energy left. I put said energy down to a combination of Holy Spirit and canned coffee. 

However, this week has raised an interesting question for me. Because I get asked a lot about energy. Or told that I’m a high energy kind of person. Or asked how and why I would like to move to Japan, study Japanese, teach English and finish a Masters simutaneously. Obaa-chan calls me the genkiest person she knows. (Which considering she’s 96 and still lives a really active life, I take to be a great compliment.) I have a bright pink pen with a fluffy hat on the end that my colleagues tell me sums up my personality in a writing implement. I enjoy juggling a combination of study and work and praying through what that should look like in different seasons.

See, I believe in good quality rest. I live life on a Sabbath principle where I tithe my time to God. I take a day a week. I take a week a year. To give back to Him. Time. I also believe in common sense. I get up at 5am on weekday mornings. This means I’m in my bed by 10.30pm on weekday evenings.

But I also believe that if God is honoured and glorified and central to every motivation and activity, then He can miraculously sustain, empower and equip us.

Because time with me is precious to Him.

It really is.

Think about that for a moment.

Mike Bickle said this great quote once that really made me stop in my tracks.

You don’t burn out from going hard after God. You get burned out because you are bored spiritually and you’re motivated by the wrong things.

Wow. I mean, that’s not a message you hear preached so often. Usually it’s people saying, ‘Take care of yourself’, ‘Be balanced’, ‘Look after you‘… But that perspective, as sensible as it sounds to our human ears… Makes it all about… Me. And what I need. Which is the opposite way round from a life surrendered. From a longing to live surrended completely for God, and fix my eyes on what He is worthy of. Gazing on Him changes the entire question from just being one of what is too busy. It proposes that it’s labouring solely out of a sense of duty that can often lead to burnout. It asks something entirely different from our hearts.

And if I’m really honest,as much as I agree with the importance of rest, and tithing time and being sensible… I agree with that quote.

I don’t think it’s a busy thing. I think it’s a heart thing.

Without fail, the one question I most often get asked when I meet someone new and explain a little bit about life is, ‘How do you fit it all in?’ ‘Isn’t it stressful being so busy?’

And, I can honestly, honestly say, reflecting on the last ten years of balancing full time work, part time study, life, other-bits-and-pieces… No. Just no. Life right now is busy, but I don’t feel stressed. And fitting things in is a joy and not a burden. I am learning the abundance of joy… And believe me, I’ve known the opposite.

I guess I can honestly say that I do not agree with the commonly held view that you burn out if you’re too busy.

Please, please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t believe you should be busy just for the sake of it or to meet your own need-to-be-needed, and as I’ve just said, I do believe in a Sabbath principle that values regular times of real rest… But the belief that you burn out just because you’re doing too much? I don’t buy it. Sorry.

I believe that you actually burn out, when you’re motivated by the wrong things.

Have you ever noticed that people who are working in their area of passion, have so much more energy and joy and life? Or… Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a season where that isn’t the reality, the smallest ‘to-do’ list can make you feel drained and lethargic?

I think about my own life. Yep. I remember burnout. If I’m totally honest. I remember what it was like for the stress of life to take over and take it’s toll. I remember being about 25 years old and feeling at breaking point. Being at breaking point. Was I busy? Yes. But was that why I was in such a state? No… it really wasn’t. I was in that place because I had been trying to build a pack of cards on a crumbling personal situation instead of running straight to God for rescue and listening to wisdom. My testimony demonstrates some serious lessons that I want to learn and live differently from.

But being motivated by the right things, or ultimately by the right person, who is Jesus. I think that makes all the difference. I love life. Even when it’s busy. Especially when it’s busy. And vibrant. And challenging. I find it energising to be around people that I can serve, to be teaching, to be writing. I love studying my Masters. I get excited by throwing my mind into the Word of God and allowing my heart to be changed by this whole journey of learning. I love learning Japanese. It’s frustrating sometimes, and I wish I was better, but I just… Find that I have more energy to do the things that I need to when I know that I know that I know that He is the one who has asked me to do them. Like when you could just worship for hours with the simplest chords but never be bored. Because He has asked.

And how do I know that He has asked?

Well, I think it goes back to the time thing. The having-unmoveable-appointments-thing. Because, above any other diary-time that I may schedule in, the first and most unmoveable slot, goes to God. Right at the start of the day. 5am – 7.30am. It means that if I get invited to an early breakfast meeting… I’m afraid I have to cancel. Or if I’m running late on a deadline and need an extra hour… I’m afraid it can’t come from there. Or if I really need to write a bit more on a Masters essay… It’ll have to wait. Now, I’m not legalistic. Some days I lie in and start the day a little later. Some days it’s tough to press through into that place of prayer of worship. Some days I fail.

But is it ever too busy for that appointment? No. Quite frankly, I’m too busy to not make it.

Because I want to make choices and commitments and give myself to timings… That are totally in alignment with His will. I long to work from that place of rest that He can draw me into at the start of every day because it’s all about Him.

Nothing wasted. And everything gained.

I read an interview with Danielle Strickland last year in which she was asked about ‘balance’ in life. I loved her response.

I’ve stopped aiming for balance. I’ve looked all through scripture and church history for people who did significant things for the Kingdom and none of them exhibited any signs of balance. I think balance is a myth. There are definitely different seasons and rhythms necessary for certain times in our lives. And wisdom, flexibility and experimentation are ways to find the right ones. But I’m not aiming for balance, comfort, or any sense of normal. I’m aiming for abandoned, surrendered and total engagement with God’s kingdom…

So I’m afraid I’m unbalanced. Kind of. Maybe. Sort of.

But I’d rather be abandoned than balanced anyway… 😉

Ok. And because you love my photo updates, here’s some more stunning ones from the last few days. I seriously have some of the greatest people here in Sapporo.

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