Time management. Deadlines. Meal planning. Planning the year. Just reading these words may cause some of you to shudder.
But something that I’ve been learning more and more is that : freedom within life giving structures actually RELEASES you into a better life.
At first, this seems counter intuitive right?
We think structure imposes on freedom, in inhibits it… or destroys it. I would argue that we think like this because we’ve used individualistic definition of freedom.
Freedom = me doing whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it.
This definition is really centered on SELF.
Hitting Your Brother over the Head
But if that is the way we define freedom, we start to run into problems.
For example, if you feel like hurting your little brother because he is singing a stupid song, your freedom to hurt him results in his death.
Okay, you probably wouldn’t physically kill your little brother, but you would cause a rupture in the relationship by smacking him over the head and hurting his feelings.
Death of a Lettuce
Let’s look at another example.
You really don’t feel like planning out all of your meals this week.
So you go shopping (while hungry), and buy a load of groceries. While you’re looking at all of the bright colours and yummy veggies, your stomach is summoning the meal planning muse. Millions of meal ideas fly through your head and you react instinctively and fill your cart up. Your grumbling tummy has inspired you to cook at least seven – three course meals that week.
Returning home, with a skip in your step, you unload your treasures into the cupboards and fridge. Sadly, you’re too tired at the moment to cook because of all the time spent making decision at the store, so you throw some chicken strips and fries in the oven.
The next day arrives, and you’re standing in front of your fridge, and then your cupboard… and then the fridge once again… deliberating.
What to eat? ” you think to yourself.
Five minutes later you’re still thinking, “Hmm, What should we eat today?”
You settle for a simple pasta dish. No three courses today, you’re exhausted.
As the week goes on your lettuce starts to whither. You had fully intended on making at least one salad but life just got in the way. The zucchini is the next sad one to go, and the bananas have started to house a colony of fruit flies.
Choosing to shop based on your personal feelings at the moment and heading to the store in hunger has essentially lead to the death of a lettuce, AND bunch of wasted time (and electricity) standing in front of the fridge.
Death. Tragic isn’t it?
I hope you’re snickering right now. Because I sure am!
This exact same situation has happened to me countless times. Which has caused me to honestly reflect and reconsider my habits.
Stop and think for a moment: Does your habit of on the fly meal planning actually help? Or does it rather drain you?
Let’s try thinking about freedom in a different way. I used this example in my above video.
Our family was walking through the city of Erfurt, Germany last year when I got into a conversation with a young Syrian student. He was studying philosophy, so we got to talking about his thoughts on life. He told me he could never follow a God who would tell him what to do. From his understanding it was impossible to have an intolerant, yet loving God. In his mind tolerance, and freedom meant love.
I explained to him that I thought that exactly because of those things, meant that God was loving.
We watched as my one year old ran around the pedestrian area. There was a big fountain in the middle, with low walls. Just low enough for my son to reach over and splash the water with his little chubby hands. I stood close by as to make sure he would not topple into the water. Had I not stood by, he would have jumped with joy into that water. It would have been too deep for the little guy, and if I were not there, he would possibly have drowned.
I pointed this out to my new friend.
“Do you see my son running around?” I said. “If I was not here constantly redirecting him, and pulling him away from the fountain, he would surely topple over into the splendid water and kill himself.”
I continued, “That’s exactly how I think God is with us. We think of his guidance as a hindrance to our freedom. In reality we are like my one year old who loves the water but is always on the verge of killing himself playing in the fountain. God is a loving Papa who stands by and pulls us away from death, or sets up walls to protect us from stumbling into the depths.”
This is why he does not tolerate certain things, and gives us rules that guide us. They show us how life is lived.
Within his framework, there is true freedom.
God is the definer of freedom, not us.
And it’s a space where life flourishes in abundance. When you step out of that, death occurs.
Which leads me to my warning…
It is possible to create life destroying structures in the name of productivity, efficiency and time management. When a structure becomes rigid, it inevitably causes damage to relationships. Life is not rigid. Life happens. And if we have created structures that give no leeway, death occurs.
The snuffing out of life = not a godly framework.
This is where many of us “free-spirited” people rebel against the machine. Unfortunately, instead of finding a healthy balance, we tend to swing the pendulum to the other side where no structure reigns.
My Embarrassing Revelation
Only in these last few years of my adult life am I realizing life giving structures can actually HELP. Many of you have already received this “aha” moment, so please don’t laugh at the rest of us who are still trying to reconcile the words structure and freedom.
Life Giving Structures Practically
- Unbound freedom can cause death in a variety of ways.
- Rigid structures also snuff out life.
- We’re looking for a health embracing of both freedom within life giving structure.
- God is a very good Papa who creates walls, and directs us so that we don’t kill ourselves playing in a fountain.
Let’s get practical:
Meal planning is one potential life giving structure. If it can help you save time, money, and help you make better decisions. Implement it if you think it’s going to help you. My neighbor does it and it has worked wonders for her. I fail miserably at this… and I try so often! I think it’s a fantastic idea, but my stomach has other plans when Soup day is planned.
A quiet time habit at either the end of your day, or the beginning could be another healthy structure example. I like to end mine in God’s word, or maybe reading a daily prayer. Being silent, contemplating God’s word and character, and reflecting on the day does wonders for the frazzled mom.
What are your ideas?
The list could go on, so I’m interested in hearing your journey in creating healthy life structures that make life more livable.
Are you naturally a very structured person?
How do you include more freedom in your life?
Are you a scatterbrain like me?
What do you want to start implementing?
Ready for the next step in giving more structure to your dreams and goals?
“The great majority of people are “wandering generalities” rather than “meaningful specifics”. The fact is that you can’t hit a target that you can’t see. If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. You have to have goals.”
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