By: Staci Stallings
On Sunday, our deacon gave the homily. He talked about going to church and the place that has or should have in our lives. Then he made this statement, “We go to church on Sundays to help us get through the rest of the week.”
Maybe it’s me, but that struck me as incredibly sad. We, the most blessed of any generation, who are not struggling to just survive because there isn’t enough food or sanitation… We, who live in freedom that people have fought and died for… We, who know the God of the universe personally… And we’re going to church so we can “get through” the week?
In all honesty, I’ve had my share of weeks that I had to get through, weeks that drained me physically, emotionally, and yes, even spiritually. But thankfully, those are the exception. They are not the rule in my life. I hope they are not the rule in yours either. But if they are, maybe we need to talk a little about how to bridge just getting through into really living, from survival to renewal and rejoicing.
See, I think too many of us focus on the weeds of life and never bother to realize there are flowers there too. We see those “have tos” that we really don’t “want to,” and slowly but surely they take over our lives. I’m reading another couple of books about the difference between living by focusing on your strengths versus focusing on your weaknesses. I think this may be one part of the puzzle. (I highly recommend the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.)
In the books, the authors explain why most of us feel depleted so much of the time. It’s because we try to be a well-rounded person who is everything to everyone, and those areas where we are less a natural at things takes over, pushing out the time we have to do those things we truly excel at.
I read a story a long time ago that illustrates the stupidity of doing this (and illuminating how society has geared it to make us think we have to). In the story, the animals decide to have a school. At first all the animals just do what they are good at. Then the parent animals get together to design a curriculum. Each animal demands that their particular “strength” is included.
So the curriculum ends up being: running, swimming, jumping, flying. School starts, and each animal at the school is required to take all subjects—not just the one they excel at. Within a week, the duck is being held after school because although he is very good at swimming and rather good at flying, he’s having trouble in jumping and more trouble in running. Within a month, his webbed feet have been ripped apart by all the running so that he can no longer even swim very well.
And so it goes. The rabbit who was really good at running and jumping broke his leg trying to make that first leap from the tree to fly. And on and on, until all of the animals are only mediocre at everything instead of excellent at what God sent them here to be.
It sounds sad and maybe even a little silly, but we do it to our kids, and quietly demand it from ourselves. It’s no wonder we’re just “getting through.”
I propose in this coming week that you spend a little time reflecting on the strengths that God gave YOU. Think about how you can contribute using those strengths and think also about how you can begin to minimize those things you know are your weaknesses. Just like the animals, there is probably someone out there who loves doing what you hate. Team up. Maybe there’s a great partnership just waiting for you.
Regardless of what you do with identifying your strengths, I issue a further challenge that might be even more difficult. Bring God with you out the church doors on Sunday. Bring Him with you to work, to play, to home. Think of Him as your new best friend, and learn to be profoundly grateful that the God of the universe wants to hang out with you.
Maybe then we can all stop “getting through” life and really start living. What a concept!