How Full Is Your Suitcase?

“Our days,” said an unknown author, “are identical suitcases—all the same size, but some people can pack more into them than others.”

My favorite suitcases were the yellow leather-like set my parents bought me when I joined a revival ministry. The bags had a lot of “give” that allowed me to stuff them like crazy. The zipper on one suitcase finally gave way.

How like my life, at times.

There’s a difference between being busy and edging near burnout. I like the way Sue Augustine explained it in 5-Minute Retreats for Moms . “Although it may not seem like it,” Augustine said, “you do get to determine how full your schedule will be. Busyness is always a choice [emphasis mine]. The key is in knowing how you want to spend your time, what you really want to accomplish in a day and in a lifetime—what can be put on hold, what can be delegated to someone else, and what doesn’t need to be done at all.”

Augustine described the kind of “continual, unending busyness when we don’t have the comfort of knowing when things will return to normal. Instead, [busyness] becomes the norm.” It’s a sad, stressful, unsatisfying norm.

When our “suitcase” is too full, something has to give. Perhaps it’s our health or energy. Maybe our focus and concentration. We may lose our passion for life, or our relationships might stress and sour. Whatever the result of our too-full lives, once we realize how busyness is taking a toll, we must respond in wisdom, and quickly.

We need to think about our true priorities and values (for example, Matthew 6:33), and then remove from the “suitcase” those things that don’t fit. Perhaps we need to simplify or adapt our schedules and live in day-tight compartments (Matthew 6:34). Maybe we need to learn to be content with less (Hebrews 13:5-6), and I'm not talking about less things, but more reasonable expectations. We can strive for excellence, but we cannot be all things to all people at all times. We have to learn to say “no” with as much graciousness as we say “yes. We need to plan down time for emotional survival, and quiet time for spiritual strength.

How full is your suitcase? If it’s overstuffed, ask God for discernment (James 1:5). He’ll help you unpack.

For more help with "unpacking," read: "Smooth Out the Knots of Stress" or "Is It Stress... or Burnout?"


crazydaisy said...

Great post. Up until the end of the summe, I was working 3 jobs. I figured, I had spare time, I cold do it. Nicole was exhausted all the time! It wasn't until I let my least favorite position go that I realized all the things I was missing. I still don't have enough time to get everything don I'd like to, but I have more one on one time with Nicole and we're all happier!

Dawn Wilson said...

Good for you, c-daisy! I'm still trying to unpack part of mine. I can't see anything else to take out right now ... I'm just shifting it all around! But you are so right that it is the relationships that suffer when we've packed in too much.
You made a wise choice!