I Just Can’t Do It All

I have been asked to write a regular column for the New Britain Herald. Here is the column that ran on November 25, 2011:

Stressed. Anxious. Worried. Overwhelmed. As a pastor, these were some of the feelings I heard expressed by New Britain residents in the days following the October Nor’easter. Most of us confronted cold, dark nights lit only by candles and flashlights. Some were trapped in their homes for days because of downed trees and branches. Many were unable to cook meals or wash clothes. Others couldn’t bathe or flush their toilets and had to stay with relatives or in shelters. This rare storm tested our ability to respond to adversity in our lives.

One comment in particular made me pause and ponder the spiritual lessons we might take from this experience. These words came from a big, burly guy, a former Marine and firefighter, who had set out early Sunday morning to plow driveways for his customers. Like all of us he was appalled by the devastation and destruction he encountered. In his younger days, he thought, he would have taken it all on. He imagined his younger-self brandishing a chainsaw and single-handedly clearing every blocked road and rescuing every trapped little old lady. But now, as he picked his way through the debris, he could only shake his head and say, “I just can’t do it all.”

I just can’t do it all. We should all pause and repeat these words; “I just can’t do it all.” On one hand, this is an honest acknowledgment of our limitations. But these words are also the first step in leading a life of faith. When we acknowledge our limitations, we make room in our lives for the divine to move.

We often associate faith with belief in a particular God, doctrine or set of values. But before we ever arrive at what we believe in, we must know how to act from faith. How will we respond when we are stressed, anxious, worried or overwhelmed, when we confront devastation and destruction in our lives? C. S. Lewis once said, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” Our first step is to simply let go and say, “I just can’t do it all,” and trust that someone or something else can and will respond. Then, in faith, we take another step.

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Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. OH MY!
    PASTOR GEORGE, YOU WERE SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO ME. I AM HAVING KNEE REPLACEMENT ON MON. AND I KEEP WORRYING ABOUT ALL THAT I HAVE TO GET DONE BEFORE THEN AND STILL TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. MY FRIEND AND I TALKED ABOUT AN HOUR AGO BECAUSE I WAS SO OVERWHELMED. I THEN ASKED HER WHAT I COULD PRAY ABOUT FOR HER. SHE TOLD ME ALL THAT WAS GOING ON IN HER LIFE AND I TOLD HER, “GO HOME, LIE DOWN AND TELL GOD ALL ABOUT EVERYTHING AND ASK HIM WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO HANDLE AND THEN LEAVE THE REST TO GOD.” I STOPPED AND THEN SAID, “WOW, I JUST PREACHED MYSELF A SERMON.” MY FRIEND ANSWERED BACK,”THIS IS THE BEST PHONE CALL YOU MADE ALL DAY.” AMEN. BLESSINGS OF THIS (WAITING) ADVENT SEASON!!!

  2. Amen. Thanks, George, for this reminder. By the way, tomorrow is White Gifts Sunday at Central Union Church. Miss you and your family!
    Aloha, Becky Woodland

  3. Hi, George. The most freeing realization for me is not only that, “I just can’t do it all, ” but that “doing it all” is not mine to do. Hmm. Imagine that…

    There’s a story in which God tells a man to push a ginormous rock. The man, eager to please God and do whatever God asks of him, begins to push. And he continues pushing with all his might for a long time. A very long time. Problem is, no matter how hard he pushes, he cannot budge the rock – not one inch: not no how, not no way, not never. The man, exhausted and discouraged, pushes until he is ready to drop but only succeeds in becoming bitter and ill.

    Sort of like our old friend, Job, the man confronts God and asks what it was all supposed to be about. He’d spent his entire life pushing the now hated rock until he burned himself out, and for nothing. The rock never budged.

    God responds, offering one of the greatest DUH moments I’ve ever heard. “I never intended for you to move the rock,” God tells the man. “That would be impossible. It’s much too big for you. That’s my job. I just told you to push.” DUH, indeed!

    Sometimes I think we don’t realize or understand that giving our best, as best we can, and doing so within the honest limitations of our Divinely created and ordained finitude is not just good enough, it is precisely the right amount to give/do. Our job is not to do it all, but only to do the bit we can, when we are able, if we can, and only as long as we can.

    This is in no way an escape clause statement absolving any of us from the obligations inherent in faithful living. It is, rather, a declaration of faith in God’s compassion for us and in God’s gospel promise that being yoked to Christ will lighten our burdens precisely because we never have to carry them all, or do all the things that need doing in the world, by ourselves.

    Thanks be to God from whom all blessings flow!


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