Unsustainable. That word describes the kind of life far too many of us find ourselves living.  

As a child, I was duly tutored in proper table etiquette. Don’t talk with a mouthful. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Finish the food in your mouth before adding more. Observing these simple manners makes for pleasant communion at table. We avoid spewing food at folks. We spare them the intimate details of our mastication and, hopefully, we eliminate the need for any Heimlich-maneuvering. 

“Biting off more than you can chew” and choking is not widely recommended. So why is it that when it comes to overloading our lives, we eschew wisdom and ignore common sense and keep adding more and more responsibilities and commitments when we are already dangerously overextended? We know we are skating on thin ice – jeopardizing our health, our sanity, our finances and sometimes, our most precious relationships. And yet we continue to reluctantly, and at times, resentfully say, “Yes” to requests that come our way when what we need to say is a gracious and unapologetic, “No.”

In Philippians 3:16, the Apostle Paul gives a short but powerful exhortation, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” A loose paraphrase might be, “Don’t let your reach exceed your grasp. Let your life fully reflect the wisdom, grace and power of God that you have come to know. Finish chewing what you’ve bitten off!” 

I confess, there are aspects of my life that I can, and truly must do better. Christian maturity is measured, not by how much of God’s truth you know, but by how much of God’s truth you live up to. My goal is a gracious and sustainable rhythm of life that doesn’t leave me gasping for breath, and too busy for loving and meaningful relationship with God, family, neighbours and friends.

We will continually face countless demands on our time, energy and resources. We need to learn, as Jesus did, how to order our lives so that Our Heavenly Father’s priorities become ours. When we do, His peace and rest will also become ours.

Think about it. There is no handwringing or long and drawn-out excuse necessary when someone asks us a question when we have a mouthful of food is there? No, we simply raise our pointy-finger, and perhaps with a sheepish grin, indicate that we need a moment or two to finish munching the morsels in our mouths. So the next time you’re feeling pressured to take on more than you can manage…just smile and say, “Excuse me while I chew!”