Last week we spoke about balancing work and rest. Some people are workers. Others are resters.
Some of us who have a hard time sitting still want to know more of this word – “rest.” It rolls off the tongue with ease. Such a peaceful and beautiful word, yet so elusive. Like an ivory-billed woodpecker in the bottoms of Monroe County.
Someone in the ensuing discussion blamed our capitalist economy – the need for more achievement, more fame. It’s not enough that we work today. Everyone looks for a “side hustle.” This is something else we work at when we’d be better off resting.
Some pointed fingers to social media. It’s true that likes and shares affect our brains the same way as when we anticipate a nice piece of chocolate cake. It’s also arguably true our lives would be better off without it. Others pointed to our need for being “everything to everyone.”
It means we never stop.
What the world needs is a lot more people who can just sit and “be.” Here, I am the chief of sinners.
I can “be” momentarily, then something pops into my head that needs doing, and I’m right back up doing that thing. I’ll occasionally get so caught up in the perceived puzzle of priorities a few times each year that the entire system crashes, and I’ll find myself sick, secluded, and depressed for days. It happened late last year, and it caused me to see life from a different point of view.
When this happens, I view life as a scale with four buckets. The buckets can be filled to different levels at different times as long as they balance the scale. Achieving that balance requires answering a simple question several times a year.
What fills your bucket?
These are the buckets I balance most days:
When these four life components are balanced, I’m a better person, and a better rested person. It’s a matter of how much I pour into each one, and when, that determines if I’m operating at maximum efficiency and getting the rest that’s needed for a joyful life.
But even when you narrow it down to these four life components, it’s still important to keep them separate, know them for what they are, and not get them confused. If I mistake my gift for passion, I may work myself to death absent the slightest joy. If I mistake calling for gift, I may never be truly fulfilled in my soul.
This is what these four things mean for me.
Love trumps everything on the list. What is it I would make any sacrifice for, and be lost without? That answer is simple. My wife. My three children. And my mom. All are grown, and all are successful at what they do, but I still feel a responsibility to each one, and simultaneously am each one’s biggest cheerleader. These are the people that I want to know how much I believe in them and that I’m always there no matter what, and there is nothing a single one of them can do to make me love them less.
Over time, I’ve been both good and bad at these relationships. Filling my Love bucket requires intention on my part to spend quality time with family, be present, schedule family events, and bring people together. I’m better at this now than just about any other time in my life. But it requires intent, and setting priorities.
The next three are a little more difficult, and easily mistaken for one another. It’s so important to know which is which.
My gift is natural talent or ability at some specific purpose. I have never been in danger of becoming a nuclear engineer, nor am I predisposed to anything numerically related. But I can write. Something inside me loves having a platform from which ideas and relevant issues can be expressed. Your gift can go a long way toward helping fulfill your calling, but not necessarily so. And you can be passionate about your gift. Or, not so much.
See all the blurry lines?
In thinking about my passion, I ask myself this question: What stirs my heart? Is there something I do that makes a difference and also fulfills my soul? The answer is simple. My passion is feeding people. Wherever you go, whatever you do, anyone who observes life knows that food creates community. And if there’s anything we need more of in the world right now, it’s community. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal and serving guests. We call it hospitality, a product of the Latin word hospes, the relationship between host and guest.
And finally, my calling. What is the thing I feel divinely called to do? My calling may utilize my love, passion and gift, but it transcends them all exponentially. As a New Testament Christian my calling is spelled out for me: spreading the good news of the gospel. It’s doesn’t mean I have to preach or pressure, or stand in the Square shouting scripture at the top of my lungs. But it does mean an awareness of my mission field. And my mission is simple. The most important thing is the person who’s in front of me.
See you in next week’s newspaper.
(Steve Watkins is a reporter/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org)