I’m sitting at my desk – in my office – for the first time in almost a week.
I preached at my home church a week ago, and that sermon consumed me. Absolutely consumed me. I told my congregation at church on Sunday that I had been in a wrestling match with the Holy Spirit all week, and that is really the best way I can describe it. Based on the reactions I received from everyone afterward, I think some of what I was dealing with was actually the Spirit allowing me to see and feel some of what my church family was feeling. I’ve never experienced that before – not quite like that, anyway – and it wore me out.
(Side note: I cannot imagine how the humanity of Jesus must have felt after ministering to the people through the fullness of God. Whoa. That’s a whole other blog post.)
I had a migraine for two solid days after preaching. That was new to me, too. And even once the pain was gone, my head was cloudy and I was unable to focus; it felt like my entire system had rebooted and was starting back up with the same lightning-speed as Windows 95.
I’ve never had a “preaching hangover” like that. It was unsettling, and even now I’m wondering why I was affected so differently this time. And honestly, for most of the week afterward, I privately berated myself. Why can I not handle and rebound from this one thing, when I see other people handling so much more with greater grace and poise than I can muster even on my best day? What’s wrong with me that things affect me this way?
But several times over the past week I’ve had to remind myself of something my friend Lisa and I talk about all the time. We all have different-sized plates.
Weird conversation topic? Yeah, kind of. But here’s what we mean.
At one point or another, we’ve all said, “I’ve just got too much on my plate,” or, “My plate is full.” Our message: We have too much going on. We can’t take on anything else. We’re already doing as much as we can do. The proverbial “plate” of my life runneth over.
And for some people? That plate is massive. It’s really more of a family-sized serving platter than a plate. Those people can have multiple jobs and several children (and their varying extracurriculars) and volunteer positions in their kids’ classrooms and community events and – hey, why not? – an immaculately-cleaned house, all balanced on their plate as they navigate life with what appears to be a perfect representation of the Proverbs 31 woman.
Meanwhile, I feel like my writing career (slow and steady-ish as it may be) and my marriage and my one child and her activities are just about all I can handle. Laundry? It’s always half-done. Community events? Not so much. I’m the hot mess who flies – late – into a committee meeting that’s actually scheduled for a different day. Ugh.
We can say a lot of different things about that. First, that not everyone is as put-together as they seem on the outside. I understand that I don’t really know what those in-control large-platter people’s homes actually look like, and I’m sure their kids aren’t Instagram perfect every minute of every day. It’s the whole “comparing someone else’s highlight reel to my behind the scenes footage” phenomenon. I get that.
And I understand that I have organizational issues (or perhaps lack thereof) that hold me back from doing more. I’m not focused or disciplined, so handling more than what I am just might make my head explode. Some of my struggle is likely my own doing, and maybe it’s okay to feel bad about that and try to do better. But I’m coming to a place where I just don’t think it’s all entirely my fault.
Which brings me to my point about the plates. We’re all made differently, and I think – truly – that we all have different-sized plates. While my plate might runneth over with only a few things on it, someone else’s plate might still be well in proportion with much more piled on. That is not a judgment on me, with my tiny tea saucer. Nor is it an elevation of the ladies with their holiday serving platters.
It is simply an acknowledgement that we all have different capacities. We all have different thresholds for stress. We all have different baselines for anxiety and we all reach our breaking point at different times.
And do you know what? I think that’s okay.
God made us all to handle the things He would be placing on our plates, not someone else’s. I am no less of a woman if I am overwhelmed by simply looking at someone else’s calendar. I am no worse a person if I would crumble after only a day of pressure like someone else faces every day. I am no weaker or ill-equipped for life if I deliver one sermon (twice) and then am bedridden for two days afterward.
I have been equipped for my life – not someone else’s. I have a capacity for what God has asked me to do – not someone else. I am stretched by the things that God means to stretch me – not by a comparison of my life to someone else’s.
My plate may be smaller, but that does not mean it is less significant. Nor, friends, does not mean I am less significant. The things on my plate are important. Therefore, rather than feeling bad about the size of my plate or the number of things on it, I will choose instead to focus on how to steward those things to the best of my ability. Those few things on my plate? Those things are my ministry. Those things are my calling. And those things are there the glory of God can be revealed.
So I am recommitting to myself today (and will likely have to repeat this process tomorrow) that I won’t judge myself any more by what I see on someone else’s plate. I will not be self-condemned by what is revealed in the comparison. Instead, I will remain focused on what has been placed on my own plate, and will look to God and ask Him to convict me of the ways I am not managing that plate well. I don’t think it’s up to me to decide, because it’s not for myself that I’m doing any of this. If I’m really doing it for the glory of God, then I’m only responsible for what He puts on my plate, and I’m only accountable to what He says I need to change.
And you? No matter what size your plate is, and no matter how many things you have on it, steward that plate well. It’s what God has made you for. It’s what He has given you to do in this world not to make a name or an image for yourself, but to glorify Him and bring honor to His name. Steward it well. And keep your eyes on your own plate.