Is it just me who feels like there are far too few hours in the day to get everything accomplished? The to-do list is endless, the tasks of my work rarely stay within the bounds of time allotted for them, and the floors of my house have been mopped three times. Ever. I hate to admit it, but in the midst of that craziness, sometimes even taking time to engage my husband and son with full attention feels like just another thing that needs to be checked off the list.
And despite my asking, I know I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed at times by the multitude of tasks and people calling my name. We all experience it. It’s a cultural epidemic. Productivity and busyness are considered virtuous, certainly more significant and praiseworthy than restfulness and balance. Where on earth did that idea come from? Surely not from the God who purposefully participated in rest and implemented Sabbath as a central tenet of spirituality!
Nor am I the only one who feels like there’s not enough time and energy to contribute everything I’d like to for the sake of the Kingdom. Prayers to pray, blog posts to write, books to read, mission trips to go on, gatherings to lead, service projects to organize… And because it’s Kingdom work, it must be worth pushing past our limitations and running ourselves into the ground for, right? That’s honorable, that’s self-sacrificial, that’s godly, right? Wrong.
I’d like to propose an alternative. An alternative to the busyness that drives us so hard we lose our health, our peace, and the richness of our relationships. An alternative to the way we measure our worth by what we can accomplish or how quickly we can do it. An alternative to a culture that seems to value quantity over quality far too much of the time. And an alternative to a frenetic lifestyle in which we are endlessly going and doing, or, in the rare moments when we do slow down, indulging in hollow, meaningless distractions to fill the emptiness we encounter. In short, an alternative to productivity as god.
It’s a simple alternative—to remember, at least. Four words is all you need. It’s a bit harder to actually put into practice. This epic busyness is a disease, after all, and it’s persistent. So it’ll take us learning and practicing some new habits to fight it off for good. Still, though, we’ve got to start somewhere. And this is where:
No more, no less.
I’ve got a very wise friend and mentor who introduced me to this guideline and calls me back to it often. Let me explain.
No more, no less is not a specific prescription for how much to accomplish and in what ways. It’s not about getting more done faster in order to supposedly free up extra time. It’s not even about purposefully slowing down to enjoy simplicity and the little things in life. Good and important as those things might be (and I’ll leave that to you to mull over on your own), no more, no less is about something much more important: aligning our lives and our actions with God’s desires for us.
No more, no less is about seeking on a regular basis the guidance of God as to what God’s aspirations and objectives for us are. And doing that. And only that. No more. No less. Because as important as I think the things that I have planned for my day and my life are, they may not be at all what I really should be doing. In fact, in a whole slew of ways they may get in the way of what God truly wants to do. And God would know.
Far too often we get caught up in our own desires, the desires of our employers or churches, the desires of our society, or even the desires we perceive as being central to the Christian faith. Far too often we take on tasks and responsibilities we shouldn’t just because we think we should. And far too often we miss attending to the things that God would actually have us do because we aren’t willing or because we’re simply too busy to notice. And so much of the time we do all of this without giving more than a passing thought to what God might really want from us in this particular moment or situation.
No more, no less changes that. It’s a commitment to giving fully of ourselves as God invites. That kind of thinking and living takes a lot of the weight off of our shoulders. It’s not our job to make sure all the tasks of all the world (or even our own little worlds) are completed. Even good things might go undone if they are not something God is asking us to do. And that is okay, for God will take care of what needs taking care of. Yet at the same time, living this way places the weight of our own callings squarely on us. No more, no less is certainly not about escaping responsibility. Quite the opposite. When we live this way, we are fully invested partners with God in the work that God is wanting to do in this world and in our lives. That may be a sobering thought, for we will be called to account for the ways we have chosen to engage that partnership. But it is also an exhilarating thought, for we can rest assured that God is also a fully invested partner, and one who is willing to work tirelessly and mightily to fulfill the greatest hopes and plans imaginable.
There is one foundational task that’s necessary for no more, no less to work, however. You’ve probably picked up on it already. Attention to God. None of this makes any sense if we’re not regularly, deeply attending to what God is actually saying to us—here, now, at this moment, in this situation. And that’s not always an easy thing to do. But it is essential. Like Mary, we’ve got to find time to sit at the Lord’s feet listening to what God is saying to us; that is the one thing that is necessary, the one thing that will cause all other things to fall into their correct places, as God desires and as God invites.
What is my purpose in this life? No more and no less than God calls me to. What should I be attending to today? No more and no less than God asks of me. How should I engage this particular person or situation? In ways that are no more and no less than what God bids me to do.
How might God be inviting you into a life of no more, no less?