I can do a lot of things poorly, or I can do fewer things better. I learned this novel truth in college. I attended a small Christian college with a fairly rigid social structure. All the cool kids volunteered in off-campus ministry, sung in an on-campus performing choir, participated in intramural sports, and performed in various plays on campus. I tried to keep up with these star students who seemed admired by both teachers and other students. My second semester, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I was in debate (actually won the intramural debate championship that semester because, well, I like to argue) and participated in a play that presented the gospel in sign language. I was keeping my grades up and participating in off-campus ministry too. I was sleep deprived and stressed trying to juggle all the things I thought I needed to juggle. And I just broke. It was horrible (and embarrassing). But it was the best thing that could have happened to me – breaking down and learning a hard but necessary lesson before I had a family depending on me keeping it together.
Twenty five years after first grasping that lesson, I had to remember it just this last week. I had to say no to an opportunity. It was a good opportunity, something I was interested in doing. But not every good opportunity that comes along is God's best plan for me. I wrestled through taking this new responsibility on. My husband and I had several conversations about it. But it became clear that, while I could do it, it would stress me in the other responsibilities to which I was already obligated.
Good opportunities remind me of good guys. For a single woman, every good guy is not the right guy for you. That's why lots of mature relationships between two people who love God still end painfully. Not every good man is God's plan for every good woman. And so it is with the good works and good opportunities that come across our paths. We can't do every good thing that comes along. I can't give to every good cause. I can't volunteer for every good ministry. But there are some to which I should be completely available. Back in college, I couldn't do my course of study justice if I was also involved in a performance choir. Some people could, by the way, but I couldn't. Now, in my current stage of life, I can't love my children well and be available to disciple them as I feel convicted if I have volunteered for more than I can handle. And for each of us, that amount is different. Some women have a ton of energy and physical/emotional endurance. They can do more than me, and that's great for them. I, on the other hand, find myself losing it quickly when I bite off more than I can chew. And I lose it with my kids and husband first.
Ecclesiastes 11 seems to present almost the exact opposite of this idea. I wrote here about that passage a long time ago, but the principle stays in my mind. Sometimes I only have portions for 7, but I need to give to 8. In those events, God equips me to give beyond myself as only He can. But there is a difference in trusting God to help me with the unforeseen, overwhelming need of the moment (such as 8 mouths showing up unexpectedly when I had only planned on 7) and obligating myself ahead of time for a responsibility I can't juggle (inviting 7 over but only preparing enough for 6). The difference is subtle, yet important.
It's a matter of stewardship, of thinking ahead of the obligations and resources God has given me and planning responsibly how to manage both those resources and responsibilities. And it's a matter of wisdom, of seeking God's face in prayer and Scripture and trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me on what He has planned before time began for me to accomplish. Then, finally, it's a matter of peace through grace—that poignant stabilizing gift of God through Christ that reminds me I do not have to earn His favor, and I do not have to keep up with another woman who can juggle more than me. God has His plans for the good works He has prepared for her, and He has different plans for me. Comparing myself to another is unwise (2 Cor. 10:12), and I can be at peace in stewarding the things to which God has called me even if it doesn't look like the next woman.