Nailed It: Failures in Overcommitting and Overestimating Capacity

By Linnette Bachman

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to “nail it” when it comes to any situation. Beyond simply getting something done, I like to add in a special touch. I can remember while I was pregnant with my first baby, Dave and I were leading a freshman retreat. I spent all of the scheduled rest time to fold, tie up, and individually label 125 t-shirts, wanting each freshman to feel like they were receiving a personal gift instead of just picking up their size from a pile.

The only problem was that once rest time was over, I was exhausted! I didn’t have energy to join my teammates in preparing dinner for the group. They were not too happy with me. One friend confronted me and directly called me out for spending my energy on something frivolous instead of what was necessary. I had “nailed” the special touch, but failed at fulfilling the commitment I had made to help the team.

At the time, I felt like my friend wasn’t being very understanding of my pregnancy and how tiring it was. I look back, though, and realize that I wasn’t stewarding the energy I did have towards the crucial things. I wasn’t very good at keeping a pulse on how I was doing physically, watching for signs that I needed to slow down or even say no to all the fun ideas I was having.

I’d like to think that in 10 years of bearing children, parenting, and maturing that I have grown in this area—that I have learned my boundaries and capacity and how to stay within them. But, this work we are in both as mothers and in ministry ebbs and flows. One day I feel like I have lots of “extra” to give, and the next I feel like I have none. On top of that, I often underestimate how much time and energy a task will take me.

Last spring, we took on way too much as a family: Dave and I agreed to speak at some conferences, we had four kids playing basketball, we were leading a weekly church small group in our home, we were finishing up an intense development opportunity, and we were traveling quite a bit. I could defend our “yes” to each of those decisions thoroughly. We said no to several things and each “yes” was an intentional one. But it was still too much. My kids were asking me questions like, “When do we get you back, Mom?” and saying, “We feel like we are chickens running around with our heads chopped off.”

We survived. We learned that it was too much. I find that I learn my capacity often by exceeding it and suffering for it, but I’m also learning to trust His grace for me and accept the limits I discover. I desire to have a deep influence and contribution to the Kingdom of God. I long for it. But I forget that I already have a deep influence in the lives of my children. I look outside our home for a fruitful impact instead of being faithful in the day in, day out living with these five little ones in my home. I want to accept my limits—my physical capacity, the hours in our day, the circumstances I find myself in with kids and extended family and LIFE… knowing that God desires relationship with me more than all I can do for Him. And I want to focus in on the crucial things with faithfulness.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite passages that I often come back to over and over again—Mary and Martha interacting with Jesus in Luke 10. Jesus tells Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” It’s amazing to me that thousands of years later, I still struggle just like Martha!

I pray for each of us that we will choose the few needed things, especially time with Jesus, in the midst of our many things!

Linnette and her husband Dave began their marriage and Nav staff career in 2005 (EDGE and SIT at Colorado State) and currently lead the NavCity and collegiate work in Nashville. They have 5 children: Kate (10), Kylie (9), McKenzie (7), Daniel (6), and Andrew (2). Linnette and Dave are passionate about the shared mission of raising up disciple-makers and raising up their kids.

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