Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Have to, ought to, want to

Several years ago I was invited to speak at a women's group on the subject "Women of Excellence." Talk about being ill-qualified to speak on a subject! Now, if it had been "Women of Insignificant Mediocrity," that would be a subject I could work with!

I invited the group to think of all the activities we HAVE to do: eat, shower, feed the kids and so on. We then considered the activities we feel we OUGHT to do: exercise, study the Word, wash the windows. Finally, we listed those things we WANT to do: scrapbook (I've heard that some people actually do want to scrapbook--shocking!), garden, shop, or some other hobby.

What happens when our HAVE TO's are thwarted? Stress! When we don't get around to the OUGHT TO's? Guilt! When we never get to do something we WANT TO? Frustration, resentment, and very often, overindulgence.

Here is the tension inherent in our lives as women: balancing the spinning plates of HAVE TO, OUGHT TO, and WANT TO, wavering between guilt and frustration and stress, wanting it all, gaining so little.

Joni's post describes this tension so well: "On most days, I face the pragmatic choice of compromise, taking time and focus from one of these roles to be better at the other. So I feel like a failure, and guilt sets in...Never a good multitasker, I am drowning in my multiple roles and responsibilities. I am constantly running on empty, screeching in on two wheels as I arrive at the next place to do the next thing."

She is writing my story.

The OUGHT TO's, the HAVE TO's, the WANT TO's, all clamor for my time and attention. If today I clean house then I don't exercise. If I work on Bible study preparation then I don't clean house. If I blog, or read and comment on blogs, then I don't wade through the clutter that is overtaking my home.

It seems like no matter what choice I make, whether trapped in the HAVE TO or indulging in the WANT TO, my companions guilt, frustration and stress are ever before me.

So, is this it? Is this just the way it is for us as women? We can't have it all, despite the assertions of our culture to the contrary. We know we can't. So, where's the balance?

I do not know. This is my life; it is my struggle not my victory. In the speech I gave those years ago to that women's group, I turned to Luke 10 for answers, the incident of Mary and Martha and Jesus. There Jesus tells Martha, "you are worried and upset about many things."

Lisa, you are worried and upset and many things.

Only one thing is needed.

Only. One. Thing.

This seems impossible, almost ludicrous in our do-it-all, have-it-all, go-for-it-all culture. Just one thing? How can you settle for only one thing?

Mary does: she sits before the Lord, she listens, she chooses the one thing that is needful.

Can my life be boiled down to just one thing? I'm talking practically here. Each day, as I face the myriad of things I HAVE TO do, I OUGHT TO do, and I WANT TO do, can I choose the only thing that is needful?


  1. I'll be chewing on this one Lisa. Blessings...

  2. Great classifications, Lisa. And I think you've nailed our responses to them perfectly.

    The essay that named my blog (it's in my sidebar) does a great job of answering this question for me. I need to do only one thing: Love well. The rest can slide.

    Easier said than done, for sure, but at least I have a target.

  3. Very well said. In the day to day stuff of life, it is easy to lose the focus on the one thing that is needful. This is my struggle, as well. I'll be thinking on this, too.

  4. A part of salvation that I'm trying to see practiced in my life is that of salvation in daily living. I realize the proper term is sanctification, but the truth of salvation--being saved from the bondage of slavery to sin--applies significantly for me in the have tos, ought tos, and want tos.

    The salvation that occurs as Jesus, Savior, integrates my fractured self into one whose desires have to, ought to, and want to choose Him first, is the truth that sets me free. What a work in progress I find myself each day.

  5. I'm right there in the struggle with you, Lisa. And yes, I think the One Thing is the key. Abiding in Him. Because if I "do" everything and He is not first and foremost, it is all for naught.

    But as Love Well Kelly said, it's certainly easier said than done.

  6. I think you are writing my story too. Thanks for sharing! Keep it coming because I sure am tired of feeling guilty, stressed and frustrated!

  7. Very well said. In the day to day stuff of life, it is easy to lose the focus on the one thing that is needful. This is my struggle, as well. I'll be thinking on this, too.