Welcoming the Essential this New Year

Near the end of 2017, I enjoyed reading Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. The concept of saying “No” to trivial pursuits in order to embrace one’s calling resonated with me, particularly as a firstborn whose primary instinct is to take one for the team. That way of taking responsibility for others has spread my life thin – and ragged around the edges – so an invitation to choose the better part as 2017 gives way to 2018 was in order.

Step one involved peeling away the layers of involvement that prevent me from attending to the core of God’s calling in my life. McKeown suggested strategies for softening the blow of saying “No,” but I have been pleasantly surprised at the gracious responses to several letters of resignation – thanking me for four years of volunteers service in one case and respecting my ability to discern God’s will in this matter in another. Resigning was hard for me, but not as hard as I had imagined – and not nearly as hard as encumbering myself with entanglements that prevented me from running the race with all my strength.

Having cleared the decks, step two directs my attention to articulate the essential in my life. Long ago, I used Laurie Beth Jones’ book The Path: Creating your Mission Statement for Work and for Life to craft the following life mission statement: To touch, inspire, and release the Spirit in all God’s people. As I think about that statement, I realize that this mission statement articulate a yearning for the way I hope my life will affect others – but ultimately, the decision to accept my invitation rests with others – not me. I begin to realize that my mission involves proclaiming release to the captives, but not necessarily securing their release.

Then I approached the notion of life mission from the opposite direction – where the rubber meets the road in my daily life. How do I live the time God gives me each day? I discovered that I spend a third of my life sleeping (which McKeown calls “protecting the asset”), another third of my life working, and the last third of my life doing everything else. This everything else includes recreation (40%) eating (32%) – both of which largely involve investing in family and friend relationships, as well as self-care), exercise (18%) and doing the chores that keep life humming (11%).

Given this life/time budget, I note (1) the enormous significance of recovery time in everything I do. Incorporating recovery – or, sabbath time, if you like – into any pursuit is a key to achieving my God’-given mission in life, or anything I want to accomplish. Because (2) work takes up such a significant amount of my life, the work in which I choose to engage significantly impacts my ability to live faithfully. It’s not good enough to pass over this question because I pastor churches. The key question: “Does this work further or hinder my mission to proclaim release to the captives?” Finally, in the final third of my life, (3) every area (recreation, nourishment, exercise, and chores) presents an opportunity to balance the relational and personal.

  • Incorporating sabbath is the key to achieving my God-given mission in life
  • the work in which I choose to engage significantly impacts my ability to live faithfully
  • Recreation, nourishment, exercise, and chores present an opportunity to balance the relational and personal

Coming soon: Step 3 – Creating a routine for success