This week we're talking about something all of us feel that is really common. We are all under exorbitant pressure. I want to talk how to live well under pressure. I don't see that pressure going away. I don't see myself waking up a few weeks, months, years from now living in bliss and not having any pressure. We are not supposed to hate pressure. Pressure produces the best work in me. It produces great creativity and fantastic projects. It causes me to be more intentional in my conversations and relationships. It forces me to depend on God because I can't usually accomplish all that is required of me in a given day, week, or year without the strength of God entering and helping with these things. If I remove pressure from my life, I remove all my favorite parts. I remove my job, my kids, my marriage, the stresses of things I love like my kid's sports and relationships I treasure. The goal shouldn't be to get rid of all the stress and pressure in our lives. We would be getting rid of really great other things.
What do we do with pressure?
So what do we do with it? How do we not dread it? How do we build a world where we live in the pressure and still enjoy our lives? I'm going to share with you 5 ways to shift the way we view pressure and work so that we don't hate it or dread it. Tim Keller says, "we are continuing God's work of conforming, filling, and subduing whenever we bring order out of chaos. Whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and unfold creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God's pattern of creative, cultural development." That is how he defines good work. When you take a mess and chaos and turn it into something beautiful and good and useful, that is meaningful good work. All of us are doing this! Those of you who are stay at home moms and say you don't have a job, you have a job. Those of you that are students and think you don't have a job, you do. I'm talking about all kinds of work. This morning I was cleaning up the breakfast table after my kid's left and it was chaos and I turned it into thriving. That is meaningful work because when they come home they can do their homework on it. All of us are working and creating and that brings pressure. So how do we do that with joy?
5 different ways we can shift our perspective.
All work is important. It all matters. Quit fighting for a world without pressure. Quit fighting for a world where you don't have stress. That life would not be meaningful. The things that cause stress and pressure are oftentimes the best things. Accept all the work is important. The more we create thriving spaces, the more we create thriving people. If you're creating thriving spaces in your home, in the world, in your workplace, or in your dorm, that's important. In college, we decorated our room with sunflowers, we always played worship music, we lit candles, we had little lamps, and people came in our room from the entire hall. They loved being in our room. Creating beauty and thriving spaces blesses and ministers to people. Don't underestimate the power of making simple things beautiful. Do not underestimate the power of changing diapers. When I look back, I think to myself the diapers mattered because no kid can care about discipleship until you have met their physical needs. You don't change the kid's diaper, social services will pick up your kid. Mundane tasks added together over years and decades, you see committed, long-term relationships and long-term thriving.
Some of you are totally isolated in raising kids or your job. Whatever is isolating is miserable. Some of you are introverts and you don't believe me. We were built to live in community and we need people entering our life. Look around at how you can bring team into your life. When I was working early on, I really didn't have any money. I was losing money on the work I was doing, so bringing people in felt impossible. I did ask for help even though I couldn't pay. People loved helping! They wanted to be invited into a mission and a story. We love being together, so we would stay up late at night and work together. Invite people in, whatever that means. When I had little babies and was a stay at home mom, we would take kids to each other's houses and then clean that person's house together. There's a way to do any season of life with people. I work with an entire office of mostly single girls and they are the most communal people you have ever met. They work together all day and then they have fun at night and are on a kickball team together and play softball together. They are always doing life together because they're intentional and want to be in deep relationship. You can always bring team in and you'll probably have more fun if you do.
3. No pressure means no growth.
I set deadlines for myself even if it's not a contracted project. Without a pressure deadline, I am super lazy. I produce better under pressure. I don't like it, but it works. I think we can tend to wander, so we need to create our own pressure to get our best work done. Creativity grows and blooms and blossoms under pressure.
4. Get to instead of have to.
At IF:Gathering, we noticed ourselves acting a little bit like martyrs, especially for people that have really fun jobs. We love our jobs, but we were stressed by our jobs a lot. We grew really fast, but the truth is there were a lot of people to lead and a lot of pressure to build the infrastructure and actually succeed and last. The first five years were hard. We did our staff retreat at my sister's ranch in Colorado. My staff sat down with their staff and these are post-college graduates that are cleaning toilets, planting flowers, looking after horses, and we asked them how they felt about it. They responded, "this is an amazing gift that we get to create a thriving space for individuals to come and grow and relax. This is an incredible job!" We were crying and so moved. We walked away and committed to living like this as a team. We get to be a part of this story even if that means spreadsheets and emails and hard conversations. This is a privilege.
5. Treat it like a friend and not an enemy.
We have to make peace with pressure. We can even seek it out! I have friends who have big dreams, but they don't accomplish them because they have not set in place pressures and structures that cause the work to flourish and happen. No work flourishes without pressure, commitments to people, some deadlines, and structure to doing the work. This is all commitment. We are commitment-phobic people. That sick feeling we get when we realize something we want to do is going to take commitment is a signal that it's worth it! We have to press through it. We can't shut down because it's hard. Take a step today into pressure and see if God doesn't build beautiful things.