I have this nasty habit. I tend to retreat when I’m overwhelmed by life. Whether it be from my husband, my friends, and even from God – I retreat into my little world and try to figure out myself how I’m going to survive whatever the latest hardship is. Mind you, I don’t do this often, or even consciously, but when I’m overwhelmed I tend to withdraw. But the fact of the matter is that by retreating I am saying that I doubt that God knows what is best for me, or that He sees my need, or that He has my back. And whether or not I do it on purpose, my withdrawl tells the real story. The bottom line is that I just am not that great at trusting God.
One of the biggest events that I put on at the church where I work is called Summerfest – our version of VBS. A few years back we had 600 kids coming to this three day event, with 400 volunteers, and it was the highlight of everyone’s summer. Everyone but me.
I was asked to be the Director of Summerfest twice in years past and I turned it down both times because I wanted to reduce the stress in my life. Well, the third year it was “assigned” to me and I was not a happy camper. This thing takes months to plan, and the stress can be overwhelming. Are you kidding?…you must be smokin’ crack!
The first steps of planning Summerfest begin with choosing a theme and picking a Bible verse to go with that theme. Then you have to find lead coordinators for various aspects of Summerfest next, followed by overseeing the planning of activities, and program content for the PK-K program, the Gr. 1-5 program, and the Middle School program. My predecessor (also the pastor’s wife who was like the pied piper of volunteers) could simply mention a need casually and she’d have people falling at her feet to help. Me, not so much.
After that there is the coordination of various meetings, constant email communications, and more meetings. In the midst of all that there is the planning of food for hundreds of volunteers, as well as the pulling together of buses and the pickup of over 60 kids from four different kids outreach programs in the city. Do you see why I might be a little anxious? In the midst of all of this I am supposed to be praying fervently for everyone and everything Summerfest. Oops….I may have fallen a bit short in that area with my eyes focused on my stress.
Then there’s the coordination of a jabillion documents and signage that we use with an endeavor like this, and just that makes my eyes roll back in my head. We even have a POD that we rent yearly that is packed full of Summerfest supplies that gives me anxiety every year it’s delivered. Finally, you have to enlist the help of about 300 volunteers to run activities, fill security roles, be group leaders, and feed people. That also involves writing and rewriting job descriptions over and over again. This is not my favorite time of year.
But in March for the past two years I’ve half-heartedly thrown myself into the planning of Summerfest – kicking and screaming the whole way. Not a great testimony of doing something to the glory of God, right? With dwindling numbers at my church in recent years, I made some program and format changes since it’s been harder and harder to find volunteers and our number of kids has also dropped. I began to stress and wonder if I was going to be able to pull this off. As if I am the driving force behind this whole schtick. Summerfest is God’s baby, so whose voice to you suppose I’m listening to? When I’m looking at the hardships more than God’s abilitiy to overcome them, you know I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus and they’re more on me and my abilities.
I braced myself for what I thought was going to be the worst Summerfest of all time. I was sure the new format would bomb. I thought I’d get plenty of complaints about changes that didn’t work. The lower number of kids would surely make things noticeably awkward. I wish I could say that I was a better example of trust.
By stressing and being anxious (leading to losing sleep and poor health) am I not really telling God that I don’t trust Him to handle my problems? When the hardships come – and they will – we sometimes think we’re justified in doing our own thing and relying on our own strength. We spend less time praying and more time trying to fix things. Then we’re overwhelmed and retreat from people and God, and hope that even in our disobedience that God will cut us some slack because He certainly knows how stressed we are. We go our own way, and the stress gets worse. We shut ourselves inside our refusal to allow God to handle the problem and go into fix-it mode. But despite our disobedience, if we stop for a moment and invite Him into the equation, God’s quiet voice whispers to us “be still….I’ve got this.”
The good news is that Summerfest 2016 is over. Praise Jesus! I’m exhausted and suffering from what I like to call S.F.P.T.S.D….Summerfest Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder. I need a glass of wine, a good massage and a week on a beach somewhere. But despite my best efforts to jump on the fix-it train….God, in His grace, has allowed me to seee His work despite myself, and He’s quietly waited for me to catch up with His plans.
All those things I thought would go wrong – not one of them happened. Instead I heard things like “this is the best Summerfest we’ve had in years”, and “I love the new format”, and “I like Summerfest with less kids – it’s less crowded.” Well I’ll be doggone. I wish my faith matched my words more often.
If I ever have to do this again (and that’s a big IF) I hope that I do a better job of keeping my eyes on Jesus more than myself. If I can do that, then hopefully I’ll be less stressed and more able to point others to Jesus. That way I’ll be a a better example of His faithfulness, and I feel like I’ll come out the other side with a stronger faith. This is lesson worth learning.
Pass me that glass of wine, would you?