Opening a Can of Complicated

I have this weird thing about can openers. In the thirteen years I have been married, I have used the same can opener. No electrical cord, no extra gadgets or gismos. Simple.

My husband bought me an electric one right after we married because he felt the manual one was sooooo much work. I spent ten minutes trying to open one can with the new fancy electrical one and then when he wasn’t looking pulled out my trusty manual opener and in no time at all opened four cans. I left the electrical one out for awhile to spare his feelings (I was really sweet in the early years), hoping to give the illusion that I was using it, but eventually I needed the counter space and tucked it away in the far back corner of a hard to reach cabinet, along with all the other wedding gifts I never used. My hubby got over it.

A few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. My beloved, user-friendly can opener gave up the ghost. My husband said he would pick one up on the way home and I begged him to just get a simple one. Nothing fancy. Well…he promised me that he got the simplest one the store had. It is manual…but it’s got this button that locks it in to place, which I’m sure sounded like a helpful idea on paper, but it takes the strength of two grown men to push the button hard enough to open it.

So, I have yet another can opener that takes twice as long to open cans, which means when the day of doom comes, we won’t be able to open any of our stockpiled cans of green beans and will die of starvation before the second wave of destruction sweeps over the earth… ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic...but still…

All this to say, that as I was recently making a pot of chili, I got to the step of adding beans and suddenly remembered that I was going to have to use the new can opener. My heart sank and hands ached as I wrestled to open six cans. That’s when a realization struck me.

I realized that there are many times I make my life more complicated by striving to be more productive.

If I could just be like a simple can opener that just opens one can at a time. That’s all. (I really miss my old can opener! I’m sorry. I’ll let that analogy go now and move on for all of our sakes.)

My soul really desires to just be here, in the moment, instead of frantically doing many things at once. I feel like I’m accomplishing much when I’m stirring with one hand, typing with the other, trying to have meaningful conversation with my 7-year-old, and also making a grocery list in my head, but really all I’m doing is a bunch of important things poorly and making my head hurt.

This chaotic behavior isn’t contained in the physical, but also transfers to the spiritual as my heart wrestles to focus on what God wants to speak to me each day.

Even with earlier rising and a carefully planned schedule (which have helped me immensely), there is an ungodly urgency in my spirit that keeps pushing me to run full speed through each day. I can see that this urgency is not healthy. It is not pushing me in a God-honoring direction, but rather pushing me past the moments when a slower pace would allow for some much needed discipleship.

I have come to recognize that this urgency is also stealing this precious time I have with my daughters, because while I am rushing, and scheduling, and juggling, the minutes are ticking by, and they are growing up. I tend to make what should be simple, like conversation with my kids and my husband, very complicated to maintain because I am trying to do too much all the time.

What my kids need most is not a full activity schedule, but rather a relationship with their parents that ultimately points them to a relationship with Christ. That is not something that can be reduced to good time-management skills or contained within the rigidity of a well-kept schedule.

However, too often in my life, I am telling my kids to wait for my attention, and then to hurry because we have to go now. I beg them to occupy themselves so that I can cook dinner, answer emails, write a blog (gulp). Or I’m answering with empty “uh-huhs” and “oh yeahs” while they talk and my mind is preoccupied with other things. And they know when they don’t have my full attention.

We can all easily fall into the trap of trying to be many things to many people. Pretty soon we are overbooked, overworked, tired, cranky and accomplishing very little.

Now I realize that there is instantly an urge to push back this way of thinking. Truthfully, it sounds highly unrealistic to be able to get things done without running around like crazy people. It would seem that multi-tasking is the only way for us to function in this real world of hustling and accomplishing. I would like to suggest, not that we throw our hands up and quit everything, but that we simply invite Jesus into the moments of our day, to help us be fully present at all times, and maybe even to discover that his grace will fill in the gaps.

I wish I were writing today from a stance of having figured out how to do this. It would probably be more helpful for you and more pleasing to my ego. Instead, I’m going to have to admit that this is an area I’m still praying daily that God will help me to figure out. The only thing I do know is that God gives us grace for all things, including those things we cannot do no matter how carefully we plan or how hard we try.

 I do know that ultimately what my heart needs is, not to be more efficient or snazzy with my lists and schedules, but rather to rest in the work and grace of my Father. He provides all things, even this breath I am taking at this second. Therefore, I know I can trust him with my to-do list, my work, my parenting, and everything else I’m juggling. I believe he will provide the space that I need to accomplish the things that matter, and grace to be ok with letting some things go.

God is faithful. He holds all things together, even the noise that is waiting to be tamed now that the kids are awake and screaming with delight as they run away from the tickle monster (aka Daddy). By God’s grace, I woke up early today to write this piece before the grumbling tummies and wet pull-ups awoke. But now it’s time to move to the next task. And when that’s done, the next.

One. At. A. Time.

Important work is waiting for us to show up, Mamas! We can be fully present because we are not going it alone or in our own strength. God is with us today.

Take heart, my friend. It doesn’t all have to be done right now.

My prayer for you today is that you will not give in to the urge to multitask, but will instead choose to be fully present in each moment. I pray that you will have the discernment to know which activities to hold on to and trust God by letting go of the things that just aren’t necessary in your life right now. I’m praying that you will delight in the presence of Jesus today, and find space to just be.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

Deep breath…let’s go.

For further study and encouragement:

Matthew 6:25-34; Psalm 116:4-7; Psalm 127; Ecclesiastes 2:22-25; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Matthew 11:28-29