On Not Trying Too Hard

For the last few days I have been even more disagreeable than usual. On Sunday I made a huge effort to be a little nicer, but the effort exhausted me and nearly ‘did’ for everyone else. The truth is, one can try too hard; and at this time of year, when expectations are high, one can get sucked into a spiral of ever-increasing effort which is actually self-defeating. That doesn’t mean, however, that one should simply give up, muttering, ‘That’s how it is.’ As always, there is a balance to be struck. Courtesy, consideration for others, the kindness that shows we have really seen the other — these are possible at all times and seasons. But we may have to accept (as I myself have to accept in my post-chemo days) that we cannot do everything we used to do or want to do with as much ease or aplomb as in the past. It is humbling, it is irritating, but like everything else in life that isn’t exactly what we would choose, it can be made a way of learning — about ourselves, about others, and above all, about God.

God isn’t a fairy godmother, to be invoked whenever we would like things to be other than as they are. God is. Those two words are key. During these last few days before Advent, we are confronted by the fact that God is supremely free. He does not have to conform to our ideas about him; does not have to act as we would have him act. We know that when we try too hard we usually end up making a mess of things. When we try too hard to make God be what we want him to be, we end up with a golden calf. That is worth thinking about. Who would exchange a lifeless idol for the wonder of the living God?

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14 thoughts on “On Not Trying Too Hard”

  1. I think that many of us can try to hard. We think that we are as capable as we were, 40 years ago, in our twenties, but our frailty, reminds us that our energy depletes with age and that survival and physical well being means slowing down and surrendering some of our busy lives to God.

    And surely, unless it is a life or death situation, whatever were pushing ourselves to do can wait, or even, horror of horrors, not be done at all, unless, perhaps by not doing, we are letting others down.

    But being tired and grumpy and without energy is being human, although we can intentionally try to overcome it, we give ourselves more stress. Perhaps the few moments of solitude and contemplation (for me, upstairs at my quiet prayer station) is needed.

    The expression that comes to mind is “Keep Calm -and Meditate” 🙂

  2. I totally agree,my husband and I have recently retired,over the years we have brought up two son’s been carer’s for our two pairs of elderly parents,plus working full time for most of that time.
    We are not Grandparent’s yet,but know it will start all over again, that we would be the one’s doing the childcare ( we would love it)
    Yet I feel guilty at times for having the freedom we are both enjoying,Yet I know the Lord is giving us this breathing space to enjoy our time together.
    Keep well Sister.

  3. God is, what a wonderful reminder that He is not there to sort out our lessening energy levels, household dynamics nor family issues as we approach Advent.

  4. 1 Corinthians 13:13 ..and in the end there is faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love.
    Your Sisters in Christ know and experience you better than we, your followers, do. But we all realise that your travails with chemotherapy and the debilitating effects of your illness are eroding your inestimable will to be the precise person in the service of the Lord. We love you no less and forgive you all the more. May the Lord bless and care for you, xx.

  5. Oh yes!
    St Paul sums it up beautifully “the good that I would, I do not do, and that which I don’t want to do, I find I do”. (sorry for the paraphrase)
    You (and we) are in good company!

    When I was struggling with energy post-cancer, I found “The Spoon Theory” very helpful. Your fatigue is so endless and profound though… our love and prayers surround you (and D Lucy & Touri!)

      • The spoon theory is a disability metaphor and neologism used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. “Spoons” are a visual representation used as a unit of measure used to quantify how much energy a person has throughout a given day. I don’t think it applies to Peebs.

  6. There is a glorious poverty in not coming up to expectation!
    There is a poverty in all our diminishments and failures.
    Perhaps this is a good offering for Advent?

  7. I sometimes worry I am becoming incredibly lazy, by trying to not try too hard…?! Or maybe this is just another way my silly human brain tries to trip me up!

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