On Friday the moderators and co-moderators of each entity and group in the presbytery met for our Leadership Summit. The goal was to begin moving forward by letting go of past methods and practices, while looking ahead to what is possible. We used improv to loosen up and relax our thinking. We met in small groups to discuss the constraints of our entities and brainstorm ways to achieve our mission despite the constraints. Each small group created notes filled with ideas, and they are brilliant! They are a bountiful way for our presbytery to live into its calling for a post pandemic church. I am so proud to be your presbytery leader! The list is both wonderful and overwhelming.
This brings me to the question; how do you handle an overwhelming list? What do you do when your to-do-list is longer than the hours of the day and your priorities include lots of A items, with few items falling into the B or C category? Sometimes work seems like the perpetual inbox of our email. As soon as we answer one email, another appears. The attempt to have a zero inbox is the holy grail of time management. But we quickly learn that our efficient response to email becomes a weird signal to others to send us even more email because we respond so quickly! It all becomes part of feeling overwhelmed. Combine our feeling of being underwater at work, with a lack of time for exercise, reading, family, or play, and we can see why Andrew Root said in the book, The Congregation in a Secular Age, “Depression is an ailment of speed, the feeling of not being able to keep up.”
As we continue to live through this pandemic, I am concerned how we are handling our schedules, workloads, and daily pressures. In conversations with our pastors, I feel their sense of running behind, uphill, and getting further away from their goal of a healthy church. And life just keeps piling on.
I’ve accepted the reality that I will not get it all done. I will not achieve everything on my mile long to-do-list. I can’t be the model pastor, husband, father, son, and friend. I will have to choose what I will do, and what I will not. in the book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman calls this coming to terms with our mortality. Four thousand weeks is 80 years, or the average length of life. He pushes us to “Fully enjoy the reality in which we find ourselves. . . We recoil from the notion that this is it: that this life with all its flaws and inescapable vulnerabilities, its extreme brevity, and our limited influence over how it unfolds, is the only one we’ll get a shot at.” He challenges us to accept that we cannot do it all. When we choose anything, we are declining to do something else. This is what it means to be human, to choose.
There is solace in deciding to do something while realizing we may not do everything. There is peace in knowing that what we do may not live up to our imagined perfection. We have grace and love from a God who loves us for who we are and not for what we can do, or how much we can get done.
On this first day of the week, may we bath in God’s grace, knowing that we are judged by the life of Jesus, and not the length of our to-do-list.