Activity or Eternity?

NOTE: Will you take a minute after reading this post to hop over and leave a word of encouragement to our Proverbs 31 president Lysa TerKeurst? She is struggling with some permanent ringing in her ears and hearing loss. Prayers appreciated!

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Love, love, LOVE reading your comments as we visit the topic of being overcommitted here this week.

One more day of why we do this to ourselves and then? How to stop!

My friend and accountability partner Mary has heard me vent about my over-crowded schedule over the years. Often after listening patiently, she will ask me this question: “Well, Karen. Is this for activity or eternity?”

Smart woman!

What she means is this—are you doing the task or signing up for the duty just to be “doing” something? Is it just an activity that will take up space in your week? In the light of eternity, is this important?

As I ask myself those questions, it helps to migrate my brain to the right answer.

And sometimes I will get a different answer for seemingly the same task. Let’s take baking cookies for someone. (I’m actually baking a few dozen today for a care package I’m mailing and a student teacher at my son’s school whose last day is today.)

Maybe I am asked to bake some for an annual bake sale. I have done it before. Many times. Often I have noticed that there are lots of leftovers that don’t get sold. And, I serve the organization year round in another capacity so I feel I’m doing more than my fair share.

I also notice there are parents who don’t help out during the year and never get called to bake cookies since the list fills ups with the “regulars” (Ever hear of the 80/20 rule? In any organization or church, 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the people!)

So, my answer this year can be a sweet, “No.”

However, let’s take a different scenario. (A true one that happened to me recently)

A single mom moves into your neighborhood. Her kids are new to the school district. She has recently gone through an unwanted divorce. You drive by her house for a few days and see boxes stacked high in the garage. You aren’t sure if she knows anyone in the town yet.

Should you stop, even though your day is full, and whip up a batch of cookies to take over to her and her kiddos?

My answer was “yes”. I wanted to welcome her. I wasn’t sure if she knew anyone here or knew God loved her and had a plan for her life despite the tough place she was in.

I know it sounds trite but the ole’ WWJD? (what would Jesus do?) is a great question!

So, I stopped. I baked. I showed up. And, so did God.

Here I thought I would be a blessing to her, and instead, it has been the opposite!

I discovered she goes to my church (my church is very large with two services and I’ve only been there just under two years so I don’t always recognize everyone. She recognized me from being in some of the dramas.).

I also discovered that she has a son who is new to the 8th grade at the middle school this year. So was my son. They’ve become fast friends. And, I now have another mom to share rides with, if needed. (YAY!)

She is a sweet Christian who sends me scripture via text and just blesses my socks off!

This cookie-baking connection had eternal value! And it would have if all it had been was a simple gesture of love to a new neighbor too.

Activity for activity’s sake finds us doing too much. We need to stop “doing” and start “being”. I love what my friend Lisa said once, “We are human beings. Not human doings!”

The trouble is, we get our identity from the “doing”, don’t we? We get another hat to wear; a title; worth. It is just how our culture measures significance.

But, it is NOT how God measures it.

He cares much more about who we are becoming than what we are doing.

What do you think? Ever get caught in the “I am what I am doing” trap? How so? Are there any activities on your plate that aren’t for eternity and need to go? Why do we measure our worth based on what we do or what hats we wear?

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  • KAREN, cannot thank God enough for moving you to write about this topic this week. As I am slowly stripping away my commitments, I am left with a void. As this school year comes to a close, and sign ups for next school year comes my way, I can ask myself- “activity or eternity?” and remind myself that my kids or i do not have to be involved in something every single night of the week.
    God bless!!

  • Karen, this was a great reminder, and what a great filter this is for filtering….Is this for activity or eternity. A couple of months ago i really started tuning into what God has for me, and not for myself. There was a point where my schedule was filled to the rim with a bunch of activities that was really not doing things for eternity and it wasn’t sitting right with me. I was left filling empty. Something was missing…….and that was my time with the Lord or doing things for him, and i was missing out on some amazing blessings. Since scaling back and realizing that eternity is far more important than activities I’ve been blessed beyond measure. He is revealing himself to me in a whole new way and I can hear him a lot better….and clearer because my focus is on Him and not activities. Activities can drown out the voice of the Lord if focused on it too much, rather than focus on what the lord should haveThank you for sharing this!

    God bless you sister!!

  • I was so convicted by this message Karen thank you …I often have over filled my schedule for the sake of filling it up for activity to always be doing something rather then nothing!! What a great way to measure what we do by asking is what I am doing simply for activity or for ETERNITY??? AWESOME

  • Thank you Karen for your insight, or should I say God-sight! I liked where you noted that in times past you noticed where cookies were unsold, or same ole parents were called upon to contribute or work. God allowed me to have much the same experience so that I could see there would be someone to step up or step in, removing any guilt I might have had. My eyes and ears were then open to His calling and sure enough something else would come up that had my name all over it! God is good and finds personal and unique ways for all his children to participate in Kingdom work, using their God given gifts and talents. There is a confidence that then begins to grow within us to wait for our Father’s voice and direction to ‘bake & take those cookies’ to the out of the way places He shows us. Thank you so much for bringing this all to our attention, Karen. Blessings to you in sharing this with us. :)

  • One more confirmation of what God has been “stirring in my soul” about all the things that are clammoring for my time and attention. I LOVED your example of a simple task (baking cookies) and how that can have a different answer in different situations – good reminder that we (I) need to be in constant communication with our Lord, asking Him what HE has for us today – and being willing to “change course” if He leads us in a direction that is different than we had planned for the day!!

    SO blessed by you… thank you, Karen!

  • great message today! so very true and something to think about…often, I do things just to fill up a week instead of doing something that will make an eternity’s worth of difference in my own life.

  • Many years ago, I decided to employ the “eternity” factor into my volunteer commitments, and it works beautifully. There are so many great causes to become involved in, and sometimes I will get involved in a short-term volunteer situation because I know the cause would be good for the community. A little flexibility is always good, and who knows what positive impact it may make on non-Christians.
    Since I’ve retired, I’ve heard so many retirees say they are over-committed in volunteer work, so I’ve been trying to be careful and stick to the “eternity” theme. I’ve come up with the idea of tithing my extra 40-hours of “free time” each week and figure out what that would be on a monthly basis (16 hours) to have flexibility when one week demands more volunteering than others. In that way, I still have plenty of time to spend with family (including eight grandchildren) and friends and time to pursue hobbies and a goal of reorganizing every room in my house plus doing some redecorating. It feels good to know that I have more time to serve the Lord in various ways without getting too stressed with time. And I can always donate more hours than my tithing principle if there is a need, and in some months I do.
    Perhaps people who are not retired could tithe their uncommitted hours (which are few when raising a family) to volunteer causes and politely decline when those tithing hours are used up each week or month.

  • I love the phrase “human beings, not human doings”! I tend towards the ‘being’, but for some reason still think I should ‘do’ more sometimes. I really do limit myself to volunteering for those things I really want to do and are in line with my spiritual gifts and talents. Taking a spiritual gift survey many years ago gave me ‘premission’ to say no to those things that I didn’t feel called to do. I am still part of the 20% because I enjoy doing the things that I do, but I try hard not to get sucked in to doing ‘it all’. Given all of that, it is still easy to feel overwhelmed by various schedules & commitments. The year I turned 40, I was shooting for “40 & Fabulous!”; it turned out to be anything but…! I was depressed and couldn’t, for a long time, figure out why. After much soul searching & prayer I realized I was so busy making sure my family was cared for and putting my 3 kids first, husband & home, pets, friends, church, etc. I was left at the very bottom of the “list”. By choosing to use my gifts to further the “eternity” part of our lives, the “activity” part is much more enjoyable!

  • This simple phrase says it all…:”is this for activity or eternity?” From the time I was a child I have been conditioned to be busy….”idle hands are the devil’s workshop” theory. As a result I find it hard to “just be”. The guilt trip is what usually gets me. I am making progress this year through my daily quiet time. The devotional I have is helping me to understand the “need to be still and bask in His presence” and that it’s OKAY to be still. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom!

  • Thanks so much Karen for the beautiful simple phrase – “Is this for activity or eternity”. This most certainly puts my overcrowded schedule in a refreshing new perspective for me and allows me the freedom to spend more time in “doing” what God would want me to do for “eternity” rather than “doing” for others just to have “activity” in my day. “Doing the Lord’s Work the Lord’s Way.”

  • Thank you for sharing the “is this for activity or eternity”. What a great statement. That was very defining for me. Thank you

  • I have learned THE HARD WAY to say no. I can’t be 100% if I’m spread too thin. I need down time and I need structure. God has blessed me with the ability to see then the balance is off kilter.
    Great reminders, Karen!

  • What great examples to get the point across! “Is this for activity or eternity?” Simple and to the point. Quick and easy evaluation. Absolutely love it!

  • Great post as usual. I have a friend who would remind me that there are things in life that have a kingdom purpose. Your story about baking the cookies and connecting with your neighbor hit home with me and made me think. As a result of my daughter-in-law’s illness I have been placed in a position of dealing with some people who have been rather ugly to me. To make a long story short I went through probably the most painful time in my life last year as a result of the ugliness. It has come to mind as I deal with them, but I am determined to walk in love. I am sure there is a kingdom purpose here. Thanks for the post!

  • Oh my, Karen! Lisa’s comment hit home…I really do not understand just being, but I am exhausted with doing! I too am going to start asking myself if the activity is just for the activity or for eternity!