Early morning walks in cool air and predawn light are usually quiet and soft. However, in my neighborhood these last few weeks, the early morning quiet is punctuated by the constant mechanical churning of huge pumps. The pumps are making a valiant attempt to lower the water level of our local playa lake. Rain and floods were common this spring and into summer for the high plains of Texas. This flat land contains the runoff in shallow flat playa lakes.
The overflow of the lake has been tremendous. The receding water is leaving a muddy dead mark, undercutting the beauty of the once green grassy flowered prairie. This morning it occurred to me that this place was symbolic of what happens in life when commitments are overflowing and out of control. Overcommitment undercuts the fullness of life.
To understand the content of this statement let’s begin with definitions.
OVERCOMMIT: to commit excessively: as. a : to obligate (as oneself) beyond the ability for fulfillment. b : to allocate (resources) in excess of the capacity for replenishment.
- UNDERCUT: to make someone or something become gradually less effective, confident, or successful.
What drives overcommitment? The need to over function by over performing, over pleasing and over protecting.
What drives the need? FEAR
The fear of; not being good enough, not measuring up, failure, insignificance, worthlessness, defectiveness the list goes on. These fears are shaped in childhood as we experience life. Most of us also struggle with feelings of guilt, of not being a “good person” if the word “no” is said to a request from a friend, family member or a boss.
Fear and guilt drive overcommitment and will result in some known accepted mantras that drive us to produce.
“I can’t have fun until all of my work is done.” “It’s better to work than to rest.” “I’m no slacker.” “I can’t afford to take a break.” “I don’t NEED a break.” Are these statements familiar?
What is undercut in life if we overcommit?
Overcommitment creates the condition of allocating resources in “excess of the capacity for replenishment” This lack of adequate replenishment produces negative physical and emotional realities such as; a strained immune system, physical fatigue, anxiety, depression, isolation, compassion fatigue and a diminished sense of hope brought on by an overloaded schedule overwhelmed with tasks and deadlines. This results in an undercutting of our health and emotional connection to others.
The following points are a few spiritual realities that result in overfunctioning listed in the book: The Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight Things You Have to Quit to Change Your Life
Prevents us from focusing on God’s unique call for our own lives. Jesus said, “I have completed the work you have given me to do.” Unlike Jesus however, we can get easily sidetracked from our own life direction by over-focusing on others. Overfunctioning toward others often results in under functioning for oneself. When we focus too much on others, we lose sight of our own values and goals.
Erodes our spiritual life.
One of the subtle, yet most insidious effects of overfunctioning is how it separates us from God. We are called to trust and to surrender to His love. When we cross the line into running God’s world for him, we enter into dangerous territory, into the very rebellion of our first parents. When I am overfunctioning, I don’t allow God to be God.
The examples of Moses and Martha give us a visual picture of the negative impact of overfunctioning on communities, whether that community is a church, a workplace, a school or a family. The problem is it confuses caring about someone with having to take care of them. It eventually results in resentment, frustration, and conflict (see Martha in Luke 10:38-42).
Recently I realized that I have a chronic problem with overcommitment and have experienced several of the realities of an undercut life. I found that I was constrained with little margin of time to experience the positive realities of life that come from a connection to my Father God. I was…
- being drained with consistent distractions instead of being filled with the faithful realizations of the presence of God.
- soul weary instead of strengthened and inspired.
- feeling less joy and more worry.
- having less time and awareness to respond to God’s spontaneous appointments to serve His kingdom.
In Susie Larson’s book Your Sacred Yes she writes:
Nothing drains us more than signing up for things God never asked us to do.
Yet, all too often that’s exactly where we lose our way.
When we live shackled to others’ opinions, expectations, and requirements, we give away our yes because of a lie. We commit to things in order to save face, and as a result, we miss out on God’s invitation to fully entrust ourselves to Him.
That is exactly where I found myself. I was saying yes to things that God had never asked me to do. My yes was driven by the lies of my fears. Lies that told me I was not a good person and I lacked value if I said no. So…I regrouped and I said NO, to a wonderful work that need immediate action. I realized that God had asked me earlier to commit to a certain good work. Saying yes to another major work (God had not yet ask me to do) was undermining my abilities, diminishing my resources, as I added to my list of responsibilities. This hindered my progress on the one commitment he had lead me to say Yes to. To help me say no and gain a faithful perspective I committed to:
- TRUST God’s identity of me, to see myself as He sees me rather than believing the lies. To have the eyes to see, ears to hear and the heart to do His will I must SEE myself as He SEES me. I am His daughter, chosen, loved and purposed.
- SEEK His presence with an open heart through His word and His people, engaging in silence and attentiveness to the knowing of God as well as to know about God.
- TRUST He will give direction and provision as I engage my heart, soul and mind, trusting His promises.
When I said NO to an immediate need and trusted God’s provision not only was my load lighten but the other requested commitment became flexible. The timing was changed which made it possible for me to participate in another great work of equipping others to serve God. As I abided in Him He continued to be faithful with entrusting me with other life giving experiences WHEN I was ready for it.
The following is a quote from Lysa Terkeurst book Best Yes:
If I really want an unrushed life, I must underwhelm my schedule so God has room to overwhelm my soul.God’s best for me requires time for connection and compassion.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
Those churning pumps along the shore of the overflowing playa lake have to be constantly refueled and maintained so they can perform the task of lowering the water level to a more functional level. That is also true of our efforts to maintain our commitments to a level of optimal function. We must attend our heart from within, refueling it with the truth of God’s grace filled love instead of finding worth through our commitments which leads to a drained dysfunctional life.
The best prevention for overcommitment is to seek God First. Laura Daigle’s song First is a comfort and inspiration to seek His will and trust that God will show you the path to take.