Ever feel as if you’re being crushed by the weight of your world, by the responsibilities that you have, and by issues pressing on your mind so heavily that if you added one more thing you’d be completely overwhelmed, because you already feel like you’re one step away from dropping everything and being flat on your face? Perhaps you’re there right now…
Years ago, when I was a teenager, I was at a neighbor’s house lifting weights. Actually we were on the second floor of a two story wooden garage. My friend’s parents had finished out the space for their sons to have a room of their own. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was theirs. It was like the Cadillac of clubhouses!
I had just successfully completed a set of presses (where one stands and “presses” the bar holding the weights above his head) when my friend suggested that I do another set with a little more weight. Actually, he dared me to try, and back then I’d never been one to walk away from a dare. Realizing that I was already close to my weight limit, I consented, but under the condition that we only add a one-pound weight to each end of the bar.
I lifted the bar up to chest level, and readied myself to press the weights above my head. With a sudden burst, I exhaled, pushing the air from my lungs and tightening my stomach muscles as I called on whatever strength I had to thrust the bar above my head, “locking out” my arms to keep the bar there.
I did it!
I stood there in triumph, with a huge grin on my face, as I my now trembling arms held the weights above my head!
For about five seconds. What happened next was a blur. I couldn’t hold the bar up for another second, and somehow I had gone a bit past vertical with it, and it was falling and pulling me with it, not in front of me but behind me. Feeling as if I were about to snap, I let go of the weights, flushed with embarrassment even before they crashed to the floor.
To my utter dismay and horror, when I spun around to pick up the weights I discovered that one end of the bar had actually punctured the wooden floor, which only served to make me feel even worse.
Adding a seemingly insignificant two pounds to that bar was more than I could handle. Two pounds. Thirty-two ounces. I can lift that with one finger. Two pounds. I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t take the load.
What’s the point?
Why did I go through the trouble of telling you something that happened to me years ago? Well, it ties in neatly with what’s on my heart today…
Last week my friend Whitney stopped by to hang out with me in the prayer room that my wife Jackie and I have in our hair salon. The moment that Whit walked in the door I knew that something was wrong. She looked as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, and the heaviness that was on her heart was palpable.
Knowing that I was going to ask what was going on, Whit matter-of-factly said, “I’m tired and I’m frustrated. I don’t seem to have any time for me anymore. I’m just not happy. I’m miserable, and I don’t know what to do about it. Prayer isn’t even working. Nothing is.”
We spent a few minutes reflecting on Whit’s life. She has a job that she really doesn’t like, a shallow relationship with her dad, a relationship with a man that’s on slippery footing at best, a commitment that requires her to spend all of every Sunday serving at church, some hurts from the past that she’s still carrying around on her heart, and she’s enrolled in an evening ministry program, where she is leading a small group of other students!
Tears spilling from her eyes, Whit looked at me, and in what seemed to be more of a plea than a question, blurted out “What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? Why am I always on the bottom? What can I do about this?”
“Take one thing off your plate,” was my reply to Whit. Not missing a beat, I continued, “Take a look at your life Whitney. You have an obligation, or a source of hurt, or strife, or disappointment, or strained relationships for every day of the week. You stopped at seven and there’s probably more. You don’t feel like you have enough time for you because you don’t. Truth be told, you don’t want to slow down because if you did, you’d have time to take a good look at the sources of hurt in your life, past and present, and you don’t want to do that either. You’ve reaching the tipping point, and consequently, everything in your life is out of balance. Your plate is too full, and the remedy for that is to take something off of it. Just one thing.”
We talked for a bit longer, finished up in prayer, and I encouraged Whit to stay in touch, assuring her that I’d be praying for her to let go of at least one thing.
I never cease to be amazed by the power of prayer.
I talked to Whit yesterday afternoon. Since we met last week she has begun looking for a new job, had a conversation with some people at church to share some things that have been on her heart, changed the dynamics of the relationship, and has had some major revelations from her past. She sounded like a new woman. She also confided that she’s been walking with a confidence and boldness that’s been missing for some time. All of this change in one week. I couldn’t be more proud for her and of her.
So what do my childhood memories and a friend’s full plate have to do with you?
Well, take a look at your own life. Can you relate to the overflow of Whitney’s heart, not necessarily in the particulars but in the sum of all the parts? I’ll be honest with you in telling you that there have been times when I was right where Whitney was, and not necessarily years ago. In fact, the most recent time was just over a year ago.
And here’s the funny thing: My marriage to Jackie was rock solid, my family was healthy, our business was prospering, and God was giving me more and more opportunities to connect with people and to serve Him. My life had, in fact, never been better.
So what happened? Quite simply, I had too much on my plate. I hadn’t learned that it’s okay to say “no” to some invitations, even if they were to do worthwhile things. I was “yessing” myself to the point of exhaustion. That sad thing was that being stretched so thin robbed me of the joy of doing things that I loved to do, both in my life and in my ministry. Everything suffered.
I backed away from a couple of things and created some “space,” and the difference was amazing.
Change one thing.
I once heard that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing the same way every day and expecting different results.” What a simple and yet profound statement. It’s so easy to fall into that trap, isn’t it? You wake up one morning and much like Whitney, you feel like you’re on the bottom of everything gasping for air.
What’s the solution? Change one thing. Take something off your plate. Take a step in a different direction. Do something that will lighten your load.
What’s that? You say that you can’t take anything away? Then add something. Find a window of time to spend with God every day. Carve out some time somewhere, some way, somehow, to be still and reflect, not on the things that you can’t change, but on the things that you can. Pray for doors of change, in your world and in your heart, to be opened. And be ready to move when they do.
Perhaps, as in Whit’s case, the simple of act of stepping back to take a look at your life to find one thing that you can change in it will cause a chain reaction that will change not only your walk in life, but your heart as well.