Thursday, July 3, 2014

Delia Latham: More Than You Can Chew

Matthew 11:28-30—Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

We’ve all done it—literally and figuratively.
That chocolate cake looks so good, and you’re so hungry…so you bite off a chunk big enough for two people. And once it’s in your mouth, you discover there’s no room to chew around it. Getting all that chocolate goodness down without choking becomes a challenge, and you have to make a decision—spit it out and start over, or find a way to swallow it. And somewhere along the way, all the pleasure you’d expected in savoring that cake is gone.
We do that in our lives sometimes too. Call it what you want: too many irons in the fire, overstuffing the turkey, over-filling your schedule.
Biting off more than you can chew...never a pretty sight.
What usually happens when we clog our calendars with more than any two people could comfortably handle is that our stress level soars and our production drops. Drastically. Or we actually do accomplish most of the things on our crowded agendas…but we do so far less capably than we should. Or…we do it all. Perfectly. By giving up sleep, private time, relaxation and even prayer time.
Not good.
My advice? Don’t do it.
And that’s advice born of wisdom acquired the hard way…by falling on my face in all the accumulated stuff I’d overscheduled. I had to learn to say ‘no,’ and let me tell you, that little two-letter word is one of the hardest in the English language to spit out.
It’s also one of the easiest to forget, even when you think you’ve finally learned how to enunciate that one-syllable challenge. I still find myself saying yes all too often, and winding up drowning in my own promises. But I’m getting there, slowly but surely. Learning to turn down the review requests, and the critiques, and a thousand other things that I’d really love to do for everyone who asks. But I’ve finally come to the conclusion that, at some point, saying ‘yes’ might actually be a sin. OK, so I’m exaggerating—a little. But if we make promises we can find no earthly way to keep without having a nervous breakdown…or at the very least, missing a deadline of our own because we promised someone something...isn’t that just wrong?
Yes. It is, because it’s evidence of self-reliance. We’re not meant to rely on ourselves, but on God. When we forget that our strength lies in Him and start trying to do everything on our own, in our own strength, and beyond what God has called us to do…we’ve stepped into deep, dangerous, drowning depths.
(c) Can Stock Photo
I recently read an article by Elizabeth Ruth Skoglund. One simple statement caught my attention and held it: “As Christians we are called to balance, not imbalance, even in the area of our work for God—perhaps especially in our work for Him. God deserves not only enthusiasm and driving effort, but also the quality of a job done with care and balance.”
God’s Word encourages balance in every area of our lives. Yes, He wants us to help others, to encourage them, to give of ourselves in support of our sisters and brothers. But He does not want us to over-extend ourselves to the point of becoming sick, burned out and discouraged. That’s not God’s will for anyone.
Scripture advocates temperance, moderation, wisdom and balance in all areas of life. Those things are within God’s plan. Overextension and burnout are the results of behaviors in exact opposition of those mentioned.
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan had it right all along. “Just say no.” Of course, we all know she was talking about drugs, but many of our well-intentioned behaviors are every bit as damaging.
‘Yes’ is a lovely word, and I encourage its use whenever possible. We should help one another—that’s God’s way. We need each other. But if we’re broken, burned out, discouraged and over-extended, we’re no real help to anyone…and least of all, to ourselves.
When all is said and done, it comes down to doing what we already know is best. Schedule time wisely. Prioritize. Take care of ourselves so we can help others whenever possible.
And say no when it isn’t.

Delia Latham
(c) July 2014


  1. Beautifully said, Delia. A timely reminder for all of us. It's hard for me not to feel "lazy" when I don't accomplish all that I want to. But I only have to remind myself that I don't spend my days in an easy chair in front of the idiot box... or hand-held technology. I pray I get done what He wants me to get done each day. Isn't that as simple as putting Him first?

  2. LoRee, you summed it up perfectly with that statement. That's the crux of the whole situation. If we can just put Him at the top of our priority list, everything else will fall into place. The problem is when we start taking on things He hasn't sanctioned for us or asked of us.

  3. Are you talking about me? LOL! Point taken.

  4. Are you kidding, lady? I have too many fingers pointing at myself - none left to point at anyone else! lol