Do you remember playing tetherball when we were kids? You know the one where the ball is attached to a string on pole? You hit the ball back and forth with another kid trying to get the string all wound up on one side or the other. You hit the ball and it goes round and round winding up the rope in one direction. Your opponent hits the ball and it unwinds and starts to wind up the other way. Round and round the ball goes getting wound up and down and up again in a new way. Eventually the winner is whoever can hit the ball so hard that ball goes around the pole so fast that the other player can’t act fast enough to stop it and all the rope is wound up tight. Remember this game? (I found these awesome tetherball videos for your viewing pleasure.)
I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel a lot like that tetherball. I’m just being whacked back and forth getting wound up about one thing and then the next. Budgets due at work *whack*! The house is a mess *whack*! Accidentally replying all to that unfortunate email *whack*! Parent/teacher conference *whack*! Whatever the things are in your own life that cause you to get all wound up. Confession time: Nothing in this world makes me crazier than messy, dirty, and cluttered spaces. And currently both my office and my home are in transition for a move. So my office is a disaster. My house is a disaster. And I am a disaster. I am all wound up and feeling pushed around by stuff outside of my control. I want the stress ping-pong to stop but I can’t make it stop.
Ever felt like that poor little tetherball being whacked back and forth between one stressful situation and another?
It is incredibly difficult to stop or even slow down this kind of stressful winding up. There are a lot of things we have to deal with that we simply cannot control. We cannot make our co-workers more agreeable or easier to work with and we cannot make our jobs any easier either (unless you get a new job). Sometimes you are going to come up against deadlines and it is going to be challenging and exhausting. We cannot control things like accidents or disease. A phone call from a doctor or a police officer has the ability to send us reeling and change our lives forever. We cannot control other people in our lives. Our friends and family have the ability to make our lives very stressful. Certain situations are always stressful- moving for instance. Any kind of change can wind us up and make us feel like that out of control tetherball.
If this is where you are right now, please know I am sorry and I want to pray for you. It is an awful, awful feeling to be trapped and tossed about by circumstances we can’t control. It is not okay and I am so sorry.
So what’s the answer? Well it’s not avoidance. You can do all the right things to stay healthy and still get sick. You can be the most productive worker in your office and still struggle with a particular assignment. You can have an amazing relationship and still have to work through difficult issues. You cannot out run it. You cannot out plan it. You cannot stop it. S@#* happens. And you can’t avoid it.
So now don’t you feel super encouraged? Ok that’s it! Have a great day! Ok no, I’m totally kidding. But seriously, I get it. You can’t avoid it. You can’t stop it. And all you want is to stop being whacked around by the stress and trouble in your life. So what do you do?
I’ve only found one thing that works, at least for me.
I have to stop being the tetherball. I have to step away.
Get out of the game. Take a break. It does not make my problems go away. I’m still going to have to face all that. But for one day I don’t have to fight those battles. For one day I can just breathe deeply and rest fully. This sounds easy but can be very difficult to actually do. If someone you love is battling cancer it can seem incredibly selfish to just step away for a day. If you up against a deadline at work taking a day off can seem incredibly stupid. But I’m not kidding when I say sometimes you have to just unwind. It doesn’t have to be any big soul-searching retreat. It can be as simple as spending one day at home in your pjs not doing laundry, chores, or answering emails. It can be a movie-marathon. It can be an epic bubble bath + good book combo. It can be a day spent working on a project that does feed you- maybe a home DIY project, gardening, or a special craft project. I’m not the boss of you. YOU have to know yourself well enough to know what will feed your soul and let you rest (if you don’t know what feeds you, you have a much, much bigger issue on your hands).
So my guess is now you are coming up with a list of reasons (excuses…let’s be real) why you can’t possibly take a day off. You’ve got responsibilities! You’ve got kids! You are the primary caregiver! You are the point person on the project! No one else will take care of that! Listen…some of that might be true. Maybe even all of it is true. But you still aren’t the most important thing in the world and the world will keep on spinning if you take a day off. You can find someone to take your kids for an afternoon. Or have time to yourself while they are at school or once they go to bed. You can ask another family member to come take care of your ill loved one for a day (and choose a day when that is possible with schedules of doctors appointments and treatments). You can delegate responsibility to another team member- and you know that once you take a break you will come back much more productive. Letting yourself get so wound up that you snap helps NO ONE. Stop pretending that it does. You don’t have to be foolish and you do not have to be a martyr.
It may be difficult. You may even feel some guilt (try to let that go) but when you are being whacked around by trial and tribulation and you are feeling all wound up you have to take a break. You have to stop being the tetherball for just a little while and find your balance again.
As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
~Exodus 14: 10-14
When you feel slapped around by life remember that these aren’t your battles to fight alone. And, I know this is going to make you uncomfortable but, you can’t win these on your own. Life is hard. We get stuck between an army and a wilderness. Don’t just stand there and think it is better that you were dead (whiny Israelites can’t even see the redemption right in front of them…oops…I do that too). Stand there and trust that the Lord will fight for you. God will fight for you.
You are not a tetherball. You are a loved child of God. You can take a rest. God will fight for you. So for today…you only have to keep still.