Wednesday, January 11, 2012
To do it badly
Sometimes I just can't figure things out. I've been pondering over one particular issue for the past 6 months and I still have not come to any concrete conclusions. Maybe you all will have some insight for me?
This is the scenario. Over the past few years, after we added baby #3 and then baby #4 to our family, I have been struggling more and more to keep up with commitments outside the home. Eric and I place a lot of importance on giving back and serving in our community; and, over the 11 years of our marriage, we have been actively involved in a number of ministries and organizations. But, with the increasing demands of our home and family, I was being stretched rather thin. No longer could I serve competently and effectively. Every job or responsibility I had was only getting my partial attention and I was just doing them badly.
I felt like a failure. I couldn't seem to keep up with the simplest of commitments and each time I failed I got more angry and frustrated. I felt like I was disappointing everyone around me. Being a person who had always excelled in life previously (that is, in school and at work before I had children), I did not like the person I was becoming--someone who was not dependable.
Finally, I decided it was time for me to pull back and step away from all the ministries I loved. It was not an easy decision.
But, time went on and slowly things around our home began to improve. Clara grew from an demanding infant to an independent toddler and stopped nursing. I figured out a few organizational tricks to help run the house more smoothly. I got more rest.
And after a time, I felt I was ready to start serving again.
I was, however, very concerned about over doing it. I really felt called to help with an organization that means a lot to our family and I carefully and prayerfully discerned what role I could commit to, and still do well in that organization, without taking away from my family or making myself into a crazy person. Whatever I did, I didn't want to do it badly.
But, somehow I was assigned two jobs instead of just the one I planned. I protested but no one took my objections seriously. I felt belittled for not willingly taking on the extra work (all the others there were busy, too, they said, and they were willing to sacrifice for the good of the organization) and I came home from that meeting in tears. I didn't want to go back to that place--the place of doing things badly.
I was very angry about the situation for much longer than I would like to admit. At first, I had the very bad attitude that I would do the job, but not do it well, and they would just get the minimum amount of work out of me, just out of spite. It sounds so childish, I know, and I hate to admit it about myself, but it's the truth. Finally, after lots of prayer and discussion with Eric (how he had patience with me endlessly describing how ill-treated I was, I'll never know), I got over myself and decided that if I'm going to do a job then I'm going to try to give it my all. Then I had a big epiphany:
Maybe God was using this situation to humble me and teach me to accept the responsibilities given to me, even if that meant doing them badly.
Would God do that? Give you a task that you very well might fail? For a perfectionist like myself, someone who tends to not start things unless I can see them perfectly through to completion in an organized and timely manner, maybe he was. Maybe my perfectionism is a form of pride--a pride I need to conquer if I'm to become a better version of myself. A version that merits heaven.
So, I'm giving it my best and my best hasn't been good enough a few times. I've failed at some tasks, and it felt awful when I did. But, I'm still moving forward, still striving to do a good job and striving to not be too hard on myself when I fail. Sometimes I may do things badly. Maybe that's for the best?
But, (there's always a but, isn't there?) there's another volunteer that I'm working with who is doing her job badly. She's way over-committed and misses about half of the meetings and can't be relied upon to do any planning or preparation. I have to admit, it's very frustrating to work with her as her failures make so much more work for the rest of us; and, I get frustrated at my own frustration because I know my own failures are probably causing the same sort of frustrations for other members of the organization.
So the question is: When you volunteer for a ministry, should you only do so if you can do the job well? Is doing the best that you can, even if it's not up to standards, good enough? If you can't do a job well, should you step aside and make room for someone else to step up who can do a better job? What if there isn't anyone else?