The Gumby Effect

I am just old enough to remember when Gumby was still part of standard cartoon fare. My siblings and I didn’t watch it much, but I’ve recently developed a lot of sympathy for the flexible little guy. Life has felt awfully stretching lately. Pushing, pulling in all directions, and it’s not always comfortable.

The juggling act that is adult life is hard in general, but this is one area in which I will also play the singleness card. It is difficult to say “no” when your life is not automatically prioritized around a spouse and children. It is difficult to balance a full-time job, family, church, and various other responsibilities alone. It is difficult, more so than I ever dreamed, to maintain meaningful relationships when family and friends disperse to the four corners of the earth, and to not cling too tightly to the same relationships for lack of the certain security that comes with having your own family unit. It is difficult to avoid the “Lone Ranger” mentality; allowing a sense of self-reliance to develop to the point that, whether it is a last-minute babysitting job or a family crisis that calls, you feel you can and must save the day for everyone else too. Of course, none of this begins to cover the things you would actually like to accomplish in life.

And so you stretch, and stretch, and stretch…until the inevitable snap. “Can Do Barbie” has a breakdown, and emotions ranging from failure and fear to fatigue crash in. I freely admit to being overwhelmed of late, so while all of these could stand development (maybe a future blog post or two?), here are a few thoughts and gleanings on the subject:

Learn to say “no.” No, no, no, no, no…do you feel liberated yet? I’m afraid that it is a word that I’ve often equated with the four-letter variety, complete with a doozy of a guilt spiral after it exits my mouth. While I’m leery of the word “boundaries,” given how many people use it as a front for self-protection and selfishness, a pushover lifestyle distracts from the really important things and eventually leads to self-pity and resentment.

Life is not a game of King of the Hill. Which is a game I lose most of the time. Which is how staying on top of things can feel – slipping, sliding, struggling for a brief moment of victory. When my definition of a successful day rides on a sense of orderliness and accomplishment at the end of it, then something is amiss.

Focus on the things that matter. Life is so short. I’m afraid that too often the things that I am so driven to do are things that matter not one bit in light of eternity. Relationships are what matter, with people and with Christ. The worthiest of accomplishments are no substitute. As Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “No amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for neglect of the King himself.”

It’s all grace. I am constantly reminding myself that control is an illusion. It is the grace of a sovereign God that uses any of my doings for good. It bathes my shortcomings in forgiveness. It is the answer to my fears of failure, as well as to the challenges faced by the people I love. It is the thing in which I must rest, instead of my own strength.

I Peter 4:10-11 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” I cannot pretend that I hope this particular season of busyness will last forever, although observation tells me that hectic is the new normal. But it doesn’t have to break me, as long as life’s forty different directions are guided by the right priorities. Serving God and others, in God’s strength, for God’s glory – sounds like a good roadmap to me.


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