Monday, February 4, 2008

I Want it ALL!

There was a time in my life when I woke up at 5:30 to work out for an hour each and every morning. My kitchen was spotless and I spent three hours every Saturday morning deep cleaning our home.

Then I had kids. And suddenly life became more complicated because I couldn't keep up with my all or nothing thinking. Some strange quirk in my personality wants things to be perfect and because I can't have it perfect anymore, there are days I just give up and let the house be a mess. If I can't work out every day, I might as well just forget it all together. My mentality can often lead to feast or famine - I give it my gusto for a short time and then sputter out. I see things in black and white, which is not necessarily wrong in issues of morality, but life in general is not all good or all bad.

This kind of thinking sets a person upon the edge of a precipice, precariously waiting for a tumble into a deep pit time and time again. What is it that brings us to this place in betweeen all or nothing? What does Scripture say about it? And how can our minds be transformed to a place of less extremes? According to the book of James, there are three ways we exhibit this all or nothing mentality.

Let's Tackle that 'Tude together!

Obsessive Desires

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

People with "all or nothing" thinking have visions of grandeur sometimes. If she can't be the president of the United States, then why even try to do anything else worthwhile? We all have the desire to do something that will make a difference for future generations, but healthy people don't pursue unrealistic desires to the exclusion of all other pursuits.

The problem here isn't dreaming, because dreams and visions keep us moving forward. The desire becomes a stumbling block when anything short of that dream is considered worthless. If my only goal in life is some dream which is practically unattainable, then I will face discouragement around every corner.

The questions we need to ask ourselves regarding our dreams are these: Am I seeking something that is worldy? What are my motives? Is this a selfish pursuit?

Even my desire for sanctification can be selfish.

Ouch! God wants me to be wrapped up in HIS desires and to be completely focused on His redemptive power to the point that I'm not worrying about my petty weaknesses anymore.

Inappropriate Goals
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double‑minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Neil Anderson taught me long ago about appropriate goals and how my emotions signal wrong thinking and wrong goals. You see, if I am constantly getting angry at everyone around me, it is probably because they are blocking my goals. Which means that my goals include the cooperation of others and this sets me up for failure.

Let's go back to my presidential example. If I want to be the president (Please NO! - but for the sake of example), I must realize this is not completely dependant upon my own efforts. I cannot force this to happen because millions of people will ultimately make that decision. A better goal would be to run for president and to have a strong campaign, based upon my own personal efforts.

When a clean house is my goal (sounds nice, doesn't it?), it gets blocked regularly. There are just too many other people who live here and they like to mess it up (I mean, play in it!). So, maybe my goal should be slightly different. I'd like to clean the house once a day and train my children to do the same. Do you see how changing my goal sets me up for less frustration?

Prideful Ambitions
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

Ultimately, the way to escape all or nothing thinking is to take life one step at a time. When God makes it clear He wants me to obey Him in a particular area, I must take that step of obedience. Visions of grandeur for my future will not help me to do God's work for TODAY. I must seek to commit each step to Him, to live in submissive reverence for His leading and trust Him to the extraordinary through my ordinary obedience.

I am planning on tackling attitudes that cause us to stumble each Monday. I hope you can join me! I would really appreciate your feedback. Have you ever struggled with all or nothing thinking? How have you combatted this attitude?


Samantha, Curiously said...

Heather -

I found your blog on Christian Women Online this morning, and hope you don't mind my random comment! I'm sort of new to the blogging world...

As someone who constantly struggles with my faith, I'm looking forward to checking back in on your blog. Women of such strong faith are incredibly inspiring, admirable, and insightful.


Amy Wyatt said...

I too struggle with an all or nothing attitude. My husband says I have two speeds - off and on. I think what you said at the end of your post is the answer. Daily, even moment to moment, obedience to what God is calling you to do for that day. Obedience is a theme with me these past few weeks.
Looking forward to visiting you on Mondays for more on what causes us to stumble.

Denise said...

Great post my friend. Yes, I have struggled with all or nothing. I am looking forward to mondays with you.

Tami Boesiger said...

This is very interesting, Heather. I appreciate the scripture references that go along with your points. I don't often struggle with an all or nothing attitude, but I do struggle with impatience and waiting for God to fulfill His plans for me. These child-raising years have been tough on me at times and I have to continually be reminded this is a season that will pass quickly. But they are not lost years personally or professionally speaking, as they have trained me in greater self discipline and reliance on God like nothing else could.

If not kept in check, and in the Lord's timing, my dreams can be prideful and obsessive. I thank God He's taking His sweet time about it because it has taught me so much.

Thanks for a very thought provoking post, Heather.

Lelia Chealey said...

First the comment you left on my blog gave me a good laugh...thank you! I will probably "hear" that next time I find myself alone, crying in the ice cream aisle! :)
This is an AWESOME post! I mentioned the weight loss program, First Place and this is the attitude I've been taking. I eat something bad, and oh well there goes my day...might as well eat bad every meal and the ones I didn't have scheduled because I can't have a perfect eating record now so what does it matter? I constantly sabotage good positive changes in my life because I take on this exact attitude you talke about. I'm going to print this off & share it with my girlfriends in First Place on Thursday night.
Thanks so much my friend! Really made me think...and it's 2am here so I probably wont' be able to go back to sleep now! But seriously
Heather I REALLY needed to hear this because if you knew my history, I ruin everything!
Uggggh! I'll be back on if I can't sleep! ;)

Anonymous said...

Heather, I struggle with this ALL THE TIME!! God is working on this with me. He reminds me that each day is a new day. And each task I have should be attempted but I cannot be discouraged when I don't complete it (like a clean house!!). My kids won't be this age (& messy) forever. One thing that has helped me is to break the BIG tasks into little bite size chunks that I can tackle and then celebrate the little victories rather than getting discouraged that I can't accomplish the big goals.

How funny that you met your husband the same way I did! I didn't realize you also felt called to missions. I still feel it at times. It seemed so unlikely since Tyler had that peanut allergy. We never wanted to take him out of the US since other countries don't label their food like we do. One of my prayers has been for God to cure that if He does want us to go international. THAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK!! My husband and I are wondering what God is up to!! I'm not saying we are called right now but God just got rid of a BIG road block!!

Hey, I have an easy question. How do you change font colors within a post?? I've been wondering that.

Great post and another thing that reminds me that we have so much in common!!

By the way, this is day TWO of Mommy Monk cheerleading practice!!

Elisa @ Extravagant Grace said...

Heather, I really appreciated this post and your honesty. I feel more and more like kindred spirits and I'm excited to see what God will do with us as he molds us into His work.

If you have a chance to come by EG, read the Wordfilled Wednesday post -- in particular the quote by Blackaby at the bottom. I think it speaks loudly to the both of us...especially after the circumstances of this past week and the publishing piece in our lives.

God's really telling me that He'll do His thing in me His way...uniquely, and I just need to be along for the ride. He's put that on my heart to share with you, too.

Love, In Christ,