As I write this, my husband and I are in the process of moving to a new apartment. Our small living room is a maze of boxes and packing material. Chaos reigns in our home at the moment. All of our belongings spread all over the apartment make me feel completely and utterly out of control. No matter how many lists I make physically or mentally, I can’t keep up.
I thought I had the moving thing down after multiple international moves because, seriously, how hard can it be to move when you can gradually move your things and weighing suitcases isn’t a factor. But apparently my ability to deal with the chaos of a move remains the same. I pack for a few hours, and then I break down in tears. Not because I’m emotionally attached to our apartment but because I can’t do it all.
I can’t pack and move every item right now. I can’t even pack all I want to pack because there simply isn’t room to stack box after box in our apartment. I tell myself we have an entire week to move our belongings to our new place. I tell myself I don’t have to be Superwoman, but admitting I’m not Superwoman is easier said than done.
Living cross-culturally taught me my lack of superhero status in a matter of minutes. Standing at baggage claim waiting for what seemed like hours for my bags in a country where I didn’t speak the language, all while praying the people waiting for me on the other side of customs wouldn’t leave the airport until I walked through the automatic doors – my first moments in Portugal showed me I was dependent on God and others in my new home.
From raising financial support to leave for the field to working through reentry when I returned permanently, each experience helped me draw closer to the Father and to rely on Him more than myself. Navigating a new city, working through a team situation, building new friendships – each difficult or uncomfortable situation pushed me to prayer.
Thinking I was Superwoman wasn’t even an option because I was well aware of my limits. I learned when to push myself to be involved in as many ministries as possible and when to focus on one or two specific areas of ministry. I knew I would never think or act or speak exactly like someone who was from the culture I was acclimating to. I assumed I would make mistakes and not have it all together all of the time.
But then I returned to my passport country. To where I was supposed to know all of the rules. To where I felt most comfortable. As I found my footing and made major life transitions, like changing careers and getting married, the expectation and pressure mounted – to have a perfect marriage, to be actively involved in ministry, to open our home regularly to others, to be as frugal as possible, to build deep relationships quickly, to keep our home immaculate, to serve elaborate meals, and to stay in touch with everyone I knew. My life became consumed by lists. Clean this, cook that, spend time with this person, invite that couple over, and so on. All this on top of working forty hours a week and adjusting to marriage.
Because I was home in California, I assumed I could do it all. I could be an amazing wife and employee. I could invest in new friendships and maintain older ones. I could cook and clean and do all the things because my culture told me I could and should. Until I couldn’t.
God didn’t create me to be busy all of the time. He didn’t wire me to spend hours interacting with people at work each week and still have the energy to interact with people all weekend too. He created me with a love and need for quiet and calm; meaning I had to relearn my limits. This meant stepping back from investing in new friendships and looking objectively and realistically at what were valid and good expectations for me and what ones were placed on me by others who don’t know me well.
Admitting I am not Superwoman has been a gradual process. I’ve learned how to accomplish what I need to in a way that works best for me and for my husband and to resist the urge to compare myself to other women who seem to have time to do everything. I’ve released the expectations I assumed others were putting on me and chosen time with my husband over checking a task off my to-do list.
Admitting and accepting my limits has given me freedom to choose the right things, instead of all the things. I am learning to be brave enough to live within my limits and to give myself the grace to do that. I give myself permission to say no and to ask for help.
Starting my morning by reading Scripture while I eat breakfast focuses me on what is most important. By choosing not to be Superwoman, I’m finding peace and calm. The chaos of everyday life doesn’t overwhelm me as easily, and I’m redeveloping the habit of praying about the little things as I go about my day, which helps me to rely on Him and not on myself. My success as a wife and employee is determined not in my ability to accomplish tasks and meet expectations but in my ability to live a life that glorifies my Father.
In what areas of life do you find yourself trying to be Superwoman?
Can you think of any tangible ways to scale back?