The Houdini Syndrome
Bob Welch


I am the poster boy for overcommitment.  And I'm not particularly proud of that.  We all have our weaknesses, and if I look at my life in the last decade, running too fast has been mine.  Oh, I could justify that it's nearly all good stuff that I run toward--I'm not the guy blowing two hours watching trash TV or playing two rounds of golf a week while my sons wonder why Dad never shows up for their games.

I could match my attendance at kids' games with nearly any parent and come out on top.  I could rationalize that I've never had a nervous breakdown or resorted to any sort of illicit drug--pop isn't illegal, is it?--to keep myself going.

Still, I have to face the reality that I'm far busier than I should be.

The good news is, I'm changing; the bad news is, that's like a 400-pound man saying he's going on a diet.

At times, my weeks have this Houdini quality about them:  I bind myself in handcuffs and crawl into a trunk.  The trunk is wrapped with chains.  Then the trunk is dropped to the bottom of the East River to see if I can break free and swim to the surface without drowning.

Thus far, I've gotten out of the jam every time, broken the surface of the water just before my lungs are about to burst.

But though that might equate to success in the world's eyes, it does not in God's eyes.  Because enslaving ourselves like that asks a price, though we're often so desperately trying to unshackle ourselves that we don't take time to notice.

For me, that price has been a number of things:

A subtle, but real, loss of patience:  When you're tired, anger more easily gains a foothold on you.  It may not be a four-letter-word, dog-kicking, fist-slamming barrage of anger, but I know it's there.  And I know it sometimes gets used against the people I love the most.

A subtle, but real, loss of creativity:  When you're tired, you're more apt to settle for the ordinary when, somewhere deep inside, you might find the extraordinary.

A subtle, but real, loss of control over the more mundane aspects of life:  checking accounts that need more consistent pruning, financial matters that need more plowing and planting, closets and dressers that need more consistent weeding.

But the more serious price has come in the areas that I'm called to make my priorities:  my relationship with God and my relationship with others, in particular my wife.

I've given time to both, but it hasn't been the quantity, or quality, they deserve.  Again, I look good on paper:  I'm an elder at our church, I teach Sunday school, I occasionally preach a sermon, I speak to men's groups.  But I know, deep down, that God doesn't want a resume from me; He wants a relationship with me.  And when you wedge God into your daily planner as if He were just another line on the To-Do List, that relationship suffers.

Likewise, I could point out trips I've taken with my wife, presents I've given her, dinners out we've shared.  But I know, deep down, that she'd trade such things for more consistent "ordinary" time with me, time that might be nothing more than a walk around the block but which is given with my full attention, not as some sort of parenthetical phrase in the midst of a more significant sentence. . . .

I've come to learn that you can't have it all.  So you have to decide what you want and what you're willing to give up.  Some people decide what they want more than anything is to be successful in business and thus are willing to sacrifice their family to get there.  I'm not among them. . . .

I believe we're called to give our best to God; our work should be done with gusto and quality.  But we're also called to lives of balance, and when we get out of balance, our work becomes a legalistic going-through-the-motions, not something filled with heart.  Our work becomes more important than the people who it's intended for.  Our lives are guided by our heads and not our hearts.

More thoughts and quotes on busyness.


We are always too busy for our children; we never give them
the time or interest they deserve.  We lavish gifts upon them;
but the most precious gift, our personal association, which
means so much to them, we give grudgingly.

Mark Twain


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