I smiled and said “yes” to her invitation even though I knew that I had no bandwidth to make such a decision. As my friend happily jaunted away I felt only exhaustion and regret. I once again agreed to something that would prove draining not only for me, but my family who had been getting the residual leftovers of “me” for far too long.
Capacity! We all have one and need to acquiesce to it wisely. Today I want to share with you young mommy missionaries 10 insights on capacity I have gleaned from my years as a Navstaff mom and wife. To begin let’s define capacity as the maximum ability one has to do something.
- As mommies, when we do not recognize and live within our capacity our whole family pays the cost!
- Each of us has a capacity. As wise women we are right to think about, pray over and recognize our capacity! We need permission to identify and begin to live in accordance with our capacity; permission first from our Creator, then ourselves and then our spouse. Reflection, processing, prayer and interaction with someone who knows us well will assist us to step into living, loving and serving from our God ordained capacity.
- Our capacity is individual, measurable and can be developed. The mistake we can make is to assume we are like other staff women around us, or more dangerously, like our husbands. When we live out of expectations that we should be like someone else we tax ourselves emotionally. It is those of us who have lower capacities that sense the difference and need to be wise with how we are designed!
- The idea of capacity implies that we have limits. Identifying our limits should include the idea of cultivating margin. This means we choose limits that allow margin, not exhaust it! This is a very private discernment. When we were first involved in the ministry at Purdue our first child, Michael, was born. Without sleep my life took on a new dimension while Tom remained an energizer bunny! I quickly realized that I could not handle more than two nights out a week. Understanding this limit required that we both respect it. As we arranged our schedules to consent with this newfound reality I felt empowered. Even these days we will process how we are doing with margin; where I am at, we are at, and where he is at in all of our involvements.
- As we contend over our capacity we need to determine our priorities afresh in light of said capacity. After I make note of priorities in the home and family then I look to ministry involvement. Will I continue to go to Nav Night? Will I lead a study this semester? How many women can I realistically meet one-on-one? Because capacity and priorities are knit together we need to review them either every six months or when there are natural transitions in the flow of our ministry lives.
- When we have determined our priorities and begin to live in agreement with them allowing ourselves a healthy margin there may be some who challenge our choices. I remember once in Indonesia after hearing I would not attend a popular retreat a student stated, “Mrs. Dana does not have a heart for God.” Be sure that those who watch us will not always understand. But the few we do have in our first circle of ministry relationships will learn from us as we both model and explain God’s leading.
- Red flags we might experience that indicate we are running on empty and would thrust us into thinking through our capacity are:
- People and ministry begin to drain us
- Little things make us disproportionately angry
- Our motivation starts to fade and we can feel an emotional numbness
- We can become cynical—we stop laughing
- We have trouble sleeping
- We self-medicate (We hope not but it can appear to be an option)
- If you have been running on empty for a while, just making the choice to live from your God given capacity will begin to replenish your energy. After time, I found that as I implemented my priorities in the context of my capacity, I regained passion and desire to engage more fully in the ministry. Two things to avoid as you implement your new found priorities: 1) That you leave the ministry altogether and become complacent or 2) That when you regain passion you go back to your old ways that brought you to depletion.
- As we walk in our capacity we can depend on our spouse to help us say “yes” to the right things and “no” to the things that are not in alignment with our vision and capacity. Sometimes we will be stretched in spite of our choices. We need to allow God to break us out of our capacity now and then.
- Capacity can grow. During certain seasons it seems our capacity for ministry involvement is very low. I found that during our child bearing years until the children were in school that my capacity was used primarily to care for, parent and love our kids. Deb Maschhoff encouraged me to always have “one woman” I was discipling during this season. It was strenuous at times but I am grateful I did this. We need to be students of our capacity and seek to expand it with wisdom. The worst that can happen is we step out to try something and we are wrong. We need to always be learning and adjusting to our family needs, personal season and ministry opportunities!