We all have too much on our plates! Here in the USA, we have noticed a real overload of information coming at us. There is so much to do, so many places to go, and people to see. People run from appointment to appointment, taking their kids here and there, attending meetings, volunteering, and working long hours. For now, things are actually a bit slower for us, without kids in the house and our work being mainly on weekends. We do have a lot of projects we are doing, but we can move at our own pace.
But in Niger, we know the true meaning of exhaustion. We work, are involved at church, deal with crises with our friends, and attend social events. The amount of work is what wears us down....there are so many extreme and desperate needs in Niger and so few workers and we just drive ourselves to do more to help more. Many of our co-workers are on the verge of burn-out and we have been there, too.
So, what is on our plates? Each of the items on the plate represent something.
First, there is money. Without money you can't live and so money becomes a major focus in our lives. The dollar bills represents our finances, our investments, our spending and giving habits.
Next is a ball.This represents our past-times and hobbies. Maybe your favorite way to relax is to play sports or to watch sports. Maybe it is music, sewing, reading, or hiking. The possibilities are endless. Hobbies are good because they help us relax, but they can also become all-consuming.
We also find a pair of pliers on the plate. This represents our work. We have to work to provide for our families. We need to pay for shelter, food, entertainment, etc. Not only do we work to earn money, we work because it is fulfilling to us.
Another thing on the plate is this flashy little sports car.This represents our possessions, the things we own. We own houses, cars, clothes, books, etc. Some of us own things that are important to us and other people can't understand why we would even want to have something like that....such as a musical person might own a piano while a sports-minded person might own a fishing boat.
Next we find a CD on the plate.The CD represents all things electronic such as computers, TVs, DVDs, Facebook, email, etc. Most of us make good use of electronics, but they can also consume much of our time, in both good ways and in bad ways.
This pencil is also on the plate.This one is for all the students and it represents studies, homework, school, getting an education. School consumes a lot of time and there is a lot of pressure on students to perform well.
And then these dolls are on the plate.They represent our relationships. They remind us of our families, our friends, our co-workers, and even those people we find it hard to get along with. God made us to need each other and He expects us to care for those in our care and to bear each other's burdens.
But with all this stuff on my plate, it is hard to find time for the most important thing. It seems like I'm forgetting something! Oh yes, it's Jesus! With all the other good and important things on my plate, it is so easy to forget the most important thing. I am nothing without my relationship with Christ, but He is often last in terms of how much time I give Him.
We were challenged during our Home Assignment Retreat to take time for a Sabbath rest each week. For some people that may not be Sunday...that is especially true for pastors and others involved in ministry. But for me, I really want to take Sunday afternoons to just spend extra time reading my Bible and praying, reading good books, and even sleeping. I read recently that God gave us the Sabbath because it is an intimate day, a day to be spent with Him. On that day He gives us something that can't be gained on the other six days of the week. I know there is a danger in getting legalistic about the Sabbath, but I really do believe I will do better if I take time to stop the frantic pace one day of the week and focus on what, or I should say who, is to be the main thing in my life.
And, no, I can't take any credit for this illustration. We saw another missionary at a conference use this illustration. It really hit home for both John and me. John has now been using it during his message and I decided to share it with you here. I am a visual learner. My dad used to say, "Do I need to draw you a picture?" Well, yes, actually, that would help. And so this is my picture to remind myself to clear my plate and let Christ be most important.