[image by net_efekt’s]
In the Spring of 2006 I had this deep yearning to run a marathon, something I had never done before, yet something I always wanted to do. Training for this marathon was going to require some shifting of things in my schedule, because 3 days a week of running, over a 16 week time frame didn’t fit into my schedule too easily. I was a full-time college pastor, a graduate student, newly married, and I had lots of interests. So I made the decision that some things in my life had to go if I wanted to add that much running to it. So what eventually went was teaching myself guitar, extra tv watching, as well as fast food and late, late nights.
Now don’t get me wrong, I actually tried to add that much running to my life without getting rid of anything else, but I kept coming up against my personal limitations as well as natural limitations. Primarily, energy and time. I didn’t have the energy to do everything I wanted to do, and the days were created in such a way that I could not add more time to them than God had already allotted. I pushed and pushed, but I couldn’t make it all fit.
Looking at our Limitations
I think we often do this in our lives. If you can imagine your day in terms of a pie graph, how do you visually break up the different elements of your day? Work, sleep, eating, relaxation, relationships, etc. The pie graph has limits because you can’t add something to that graph without shrinking one of the other elements, or all of the elements, or eliminating one or some of them. It is impossible. Yet, we try to hard to add things to our lives without acknowledging our limitations. We think we are super human and can do it all. But really, that just leads us to exhaustion and poor boundaries eventually.
For example, when I work with clients there are 3 things that I tell them they must have in their pie graph if they are going to maintain some proper mental health. Exercise, Diet, Sleep. When a client can have healthy habits in those three areas it’s actually quite amazing how that can enhance one’s life. And then we add things like relationships (time with wife, kids, family, etc.). And work of course. What about play? Hobbies?
I ended up running two marathons in 6 months (Chicago in October of 2006 and Los Angeles in March of 2007), but I had to make sacrifices and put some things in my life on hold as I mentioned above. I signed up for other marathons in 2007 and 2008, but we had our first baby that summer. I tried to go out and run, but the combination of late, late nights, and no sleep just took their toll and I ran into my limits again. Marathons could not fit into my life. Now it’s 2009 and my daughter sleeps well and I have once again decided to run a marathon this December but I have had to make some choices because I’ve learned that God has created me to live within certain limits. Limits that cannot be overcome…even with the latest technology.
So as I enter into a new season of marathon training I have decided that certain pieces of my pie are going to have to shrink if I am going to add the marathon training to it. I’m definitely not decreasing family relationships, or work, so I have decided that I have to shrink my technology use if I’m going to make room in that pie for more running, as well as more sleep to run well.
“Everything in the universe has a nature, which means limits as well as potentials, a truth well known by people who work daily with the things of the world. Making pottery, for example, involves more than telling the clay what to become. The clay presses back on the potter’s hands, telling her what it can and cannot do–and if she fails to listen, the outcome will be both frail and ungainly. Engineering involves more than telling materials what they must do. If the engineer does not honor the nature of the steel or the wood or the stone, his failure will go beyond aesthetics: the bridge or the building will collapse and put human life in peril.
The human self also has a nature, limits as well as potentials. If you seek vocation without understanding the material you are working with, what you build with your life will be ungainly and may well put lives in peril, your own and some of those around you. “Faking it” in the service of high values is no virtue and has nothing to do with vocation. It is an ignorant, sometimes arrogant, attempt to override one’s nature, and it will always fail.
Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.’” (Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer, pp. 15-16)