Yesterday I listened to the most recent episode of the Unhurried Living Podcast by Alan and Gem Fadling. This first season of the podcast is focused on themes from Alan’s newest book Unhurried Leader that comes out next month. In the latest episode Alan had a conversation with Doug Fields – a well-known leader and innovator in the youth ministry field. He said something that really struck me and humbled me: Anyone can do your job. Yes, when you’re in the position the church loves you (hopefully!), but when you leave, they replace you. Anyone can do your job.
He’s right. Anyone can do my job. It’s not rocket science. The church loves me and doesn’t want to see me leave, but they are in the process of replacing me. Okay, so maybe not anyone but anyone with a passion for youth and ministry can do my job. That’s humbling and honest. I’d like to think I’m not replaceable, and in terms of who I am as a person, I know I’m not. However, when it comes to event planning, leading youth group and working with volunteers, I know I am.
However, he went on to say something like: Not anyone can be a spouse like you or a friend like you or a (insert kind of relationship) like you. So, why would I devote all my time and energy to something in which I can be replaced and ignore relationships in which I’m irreplaceable? Why would I put work in front of relationships?
This is an interesting way to consider the “work life balance” we often hear about. Is there even such a thing? I never feel balanced – sometimes I work too much and other times I don’t work enough, sometimes I spend a lot of time on my relationships and other times I ignore those right in front of me. It’s rarely balanced right in the middle. And, maybe it shouldn’t be?
Maybe we put too much emphasis on trying to have a balanced life when balance isn’t the best option. I’d rather look back over my life and see time with friends and family overshadow my time at the computer or sitting in meetings. Sure, we can’t always prevent those – most of us have to work and that means computers and meetings and time away from home. And, some people really like that – they’d rather work more and be home less – and that’s okay. I’m just not one of those people. I enjoy meaningful work, but I will always enjoy being with friends gathered around a table more. I think getting a paycheck is great, but I will always think spending time with my nieces and nephews is greater. Anyone can work, anyone can get a paycheck – but I’m the only one with these friends around this table, I’m the only one with these children in my life.
Knowing anyone can do my job actually lightens the load. It’s a bit of a relief. Not everything depends on me. I think, if I’m going to be totally honest, there was a little part of me that felt like everything might fall apart if I decided to leave. I know where to find the plates for dinner, I know which student needs extra help, I know who to talk to about room set up. But, the thing is, I’ve taught others these things too. I didn’t keep it all to myself. I let others in on the planning and the relationship building and the hoping for what’s yet to come. And yet, I’m reminded…anyone can do my job. <huge sigh of relief> Everything will be okay. Everything will be just fine.
Today I was listening to another podcast – this time Shauna Niequist. She was having a conversation with Deidra Riggs. Deidra mentioned a story about her husband’s professor in seminary. He said, when you try to imitate someone else in the pulpit, the pulpit is actually empty because you aren’t there and the person you’re imitating isn’t there either. The only way to be present in any place is to be you – authentically, fully.
Anyone can do my job.
But, not everyone can be me.
Only I can do that.
And, it turns out, I do me really well.
What a relief!