Since college, I had never worked less than a 50-60 hour week, and I always had something on the calendar. If I had a free gap, I tried to fill it. Or I would be excited to have a free moment, but the minute someone asked me to do something during that time, I filled it. I was barely able to get myself out of bed in the mornings, and snoozed my alarm to the last minute before rushing to get to work to on time. I made little to no time for myself, and even less time for Jesus aside from my “service” to Him. I clearly had problems with boundaries.
I knew it wasn’t a healthy lifestyle, but I kept going because I was finding my identity in busyness.
I made little to no time for myself, and even less time for Jesus.When people would express their awe of how busy I was, how I managed my commitments, how I “did it all”, it starved my insecurity, gave me fulfillment. I found my value in being able to please people by saying yes, it made me feel worthwhile to be someone’s hero by helping them out. But it was really exhausting me, and the exhaustion robbed me of the joy I should have in serving.
That’s because my busyness was a heart issue.
I was in bondage to people pleasing and admiration.While I filled my calendar with things I genuinely enjoyed doing, I filled it so much that I couldn’t genuinely enjoy those things anymore. I felt I had to say yes to every opportunity. I didn’t want to miss out on anything fun, and I definitely didn’t want to disappoint anyone by telling them no. I was in bondage to people pleasing and admiration, and it came at the expense of my own well-being physically and spiritually.
This summer, one of the round table discussions I attended during my time with Love Thy Neighborhood was about boundaries– the importance of priorities, saying no, and making time for yourself. One of the suggestions was to have extended periods of time alone, to schedule “me time” on the calendar as you would any other commitment. While serving with Love Thy Neighborhood, we were able to practically implement this through our weekly Sabbath and daily times of rest. During these times, we were able to nourish our souls in whatever way that personally looked like for us. Sometimes that looked like helping a teammate cook dinner and sometimes that looked like taking a nap.
Sometimes, saying “no” is a sign of wisdom so that I can be more effective in the things God has called me to say “yes” to.I now look at busyness differently. I schedule monthly personal retreats. I work a reasonable 45-50 hours a week, but I am being more wise in what I say “yes” to outside of work. I still struggle saying “no” to things and I’m trying to learn that sometimes a night of down time and rest is reason enough to say “no”. Saying “no” is not always selfish. Sometimes, saying “no” is a sign of wisdom so that I can be more effective in the things God has called me to say “yes” to.
I can be a better nanny, a better friend, a better roommate, etc when I am not stretching myself so thin that I have nothing left to give myself. Better to give 25% of myself to 4 important things God calls me to, than 10% to 10 things I chose myself. When I was busy all the time, I wondered how I would be a good wife and mom if all I ever did was fill our calendar. I knew I needed to learn NOW, as a single person, how to prioritize commitments or I would drag my family into the same exhausting lifestyle.
Saying “yes” to Jesus daily gives me the freedom to say “NO” to lesser things.Now, my alarm goes off at 6am to start my day with Jesus (admittedly, this usually becomes 6:30). This quiet, unrushed time has been the best way to start my day. I notice that when I skip this time for sleep, I tend to be more tired and more irritable than if I force myself to get up and be refreshed by time with God. This has been the most important “YES” in my life, and saying “yes” to Jesus daily gives me the freedom to say “NO” to lesser things, because in Him I find my worth, and I don’t need to find it in my calendar. My aim is to please Him above all else, and when I have His peace, saying “no” is easier, because the burden of people pleasing and the idol of busyness is no longer upon me.
Praise be to God.
Sarah Zubrowski is from Baltimore, MD and made an impact on the adult entertainment industry by serving with Scarlet Hope in the summer of 2016. She now lives in Baltimore and is serving with her church in an at-risk neighborhood.