More than once recently, I have felt completely overwhelmed. I am not referring to anything catastrophic. I am talking about everyday life that at times seems huge and menacing. As a result, I have had to relearn the steps involved in “eating” the “elephants” of life. To the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” the answer is as it has always been – “one bite at a time.”
Let me illustrate. This past week is a good example of a truly overwhelming lineup. On Sunday night, I had already begun to dread the agenda facing me starting Monday morning. Here is what was on my plate:
Preparation for a Friday afternoon seminar on Effective Listening Skills – a module I had never presented before – which required many hours to learn the curriculum, work through the technology, gather supplies, etc. Since I was getting paid to deliver this for a CPA firm, I felt the pressure to be prepared and do a good job.
Practice for two speech contests in which I was competing on Monday evening; final preparation for a Speechcraft class I teach on Tuesday mornings at Furman University; throw in two lunch meetings with friends, dinner with other friends, a weekly noon business networking luncheon, coaching a client who is paying for private communications training, mid-week church – and did I mention that I work 20 hours a week at a part-time job? And let’s not forget time with the Lord, keeping my Life Application Group informed of prayer needs, shopping for necessities, doing laundry, seeing my children and grandchildren along with shopping for a car! Whew! The review alone is exhausting.
Part of breaking down this elephant of a week into bite-sized pieces required acknowledging that much of the pressure I feel is self-induced. I have a tendency to set unrealistic expectations for myself; and when I do not perform to my own arbitrary standards, Satan uses those feelings of inadequacy to foment discouragement. To offset that happening, I have formed the habit of praying a very simple prayer: “Lord, please orchestrate this day. You know even better than I what is coming at me and that I need your wisdom to make good use of the available time, to do those things that ought to be done and to leave undone those things that are not profitable either to you or to me.” I know this sounds like shades of “The Serenity Prayer,” but it is a prayer I pray daily. Some days I make a detailed list of everything I need to accomplish that day, then I put the items in the best logistical sequence so that I can move seamlessly from one activity to another and not miss anything. My wonderful Lord is right there to give guidance in the choices I make. I feel his presence moment by moment but never more so than when something unexpected crops up – phone calls that interrupt the time set aside for study and preparation and necessitate a rearrangement of “the list.”
At times, the prayer is much shorter and to the point: “Lord, HELP!” Resting in my Savior, it was a joy to travel through the week and sense his hand at every turn: Two speech contests won; students who are learning and growing from what I teach; new skills learned at the job; additional speaking opportunities coming through networking; training successfully delivered; fellowship enjoyed; seminar receiving great reviews; enjoying family and saw grandson shine in his basketball game. What a blessed week. So what was not accomplished? Well, I still have not found a car and time is running out. No worries, however. Each thing accomplished represented one more bite out of that elephant of a week.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I [was] helped.” (Psalm 28:7) “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” (Matthew 6:34) In other words, we don’t have to worry about tomorrow for God is already there! “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest….” (Genesis 28:15).
The Lord be praised! My “appetite” for “elephants” has been whetted by his grace!