building boxes & capacity

I’ve been thinking lately about how someone builds capacity. How do we grow and stretch so we can handle more responsibility and influence in our work or personal lives?

I used to want other people’s work because I didn’t understand my own. On the days I was unclear about the best ways to use my energy and focus, it was easier to look at other people’s work and pattern my days like them. A storyline in my head went like this: If I could do all the work that I see, then I could impress people and prove I belonged in the role or job. I could earn something. Respect? Admiration?

Now, I’m learning to want my own work.

I’m memorizing what it feels like to give a deep yes to what’s mine to do in this world and a beautiful, “no, thank you” to what’s for someone else.

Time slows down when I do the work meant for me.
Time speeds up when I do work meant for someone else.

My work means more, because the starting point is different. It comes from the meeting of my gifts and a need in our world. The work that is mine to do often feels light.

It’s work I want to do. Yes, it helps others. It makes our world a better place. And it’s for me. My work.

I don’t want your work. It’s yours!

Last week I was honored to serve on the Board of Ordained Ministry and listen to candidates share their call to ministry. It was intense and inspiring work. The pause from my local context gave me time to breathe a little deeper.

Then I came home.

When I step away from my daily work rhythm, I often feel overwhelmed as I re-enter it. I honor Sabbath and have pretty firm boundaries, but am I still doing too much? Should I reevaluate all my commitments? Are there still things I need to release that are someone else’s to do? This time around, I asked different questions.

Could it be true that I’m slowly stretching my capacity for what I can hold and do and lead?

Because a voice tries to tell me I simply cannot hold all these things. And I usually say, “maybe I can’t. God can.”

Then a brand new thought enters the picture:

Maybe I can.

The Container Store

That’s the whole point of building capacity, isn’t it? We grow new containers.

We used to be able to hold a certain amount of information, people, stories, responsibilities, etc. Then we allow ourselves to be stretched. We learn the work that’s really ours. We let the other work go. Death and resurrection.

What if you can handle more?

My mental muscles are still trained in scarcity so I can’t quite comprehend it yet. But just asking the question feels like freedom.

What if you can handle something new?

Adding a new child to your family, gaining responsibility at work, starting a new business, starting a new relationship, learning a new hobby, walking through a difficult health journey.

We live in a culture that screams, “do more.” Some of us resist this and set a goal of doing less. This is wonderful. But what happens when we get comfortable and a bit self-righteous about doing less that we’ve talked ourselves out of bigger risks and life outside our comfort zone?

So these days I’m spending time listening for my relationship with abundance and scarcity. What if the abundance is a sign you’re ready to handle more? We sometimes fear abundance. It feels out of control. Many of us default into scarcity. There’s not enough of something. We live in that place.

Problem is…We were created by a God of abundance.

I’m learning that others can be impressed with you and they know you can handle more. And that’s nice. But you must do the work to realize you can actually handle more. Don’t just do the song and dance you sense they want. Release the fear and old stories and step into the life-changing truth that your container is growing.

And get ready for the Creator of the Universe to overwhelm you with freedom at the work you get to do in this world.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! (God) does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, (God’s) Spirit deeply and gently within us. – Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)

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