Today I’m facing down a freight train in the form of my second part time job, which takes place seven times each year after high school kids take the SATs. For the last 10 years or so, I have been a holistic scorer for the essay portion of the exam. The essay portion is being phased out in 2016, from what I hear, so I will eventually be out of a job, which is okay with me. It’s a good job, don’t get me wrong; it’s just not writing.
But anyway, each scoring rotation I spend anywhere from 4 to 8 hours a day holistically scoring for about 12 days in a row (I did start taking Sundays off last year). In a schedule like mine, this makes a serious dent. Pretty much every waking moment that isn’t teaching, driving kids around, feeding the family, or sleeping is spent on this job for almost 2 weeks. During these days, I pare down to just the essentials of what needs to get done. Between teaching, writing and scoring, it can often be a 10 or 12 hour work day, which doesn’t include driving the kids from place to place and generally making sure their needs are still met.
Just knowing it’s coming up to the start of “scoring,” as I call it, is enough to elevate my stress level. On the day before it starts (which is today), I usually have a long to-do list of things I hope to get done, since I know I won’t have time to accomplish anything extra during those 12 days.
I was thinking of this situation today and remembered something my husband came home saying after a men’s conference he attended some years ago. “You don’t have to survive,” he told me.
At first, the statement didn’t make any sense. What do you mean, I don’t have to survive? I thought to myself. Of course I have to survive. After all, what was the alternative? Not surviving? Not really an option.
But as he talked about it more, I realized that the speaker he was quoting was not suggesting we all give up and literally not survive. His statement referred to the way that we often go into survival mode when our stress levels rise. There are whole categories of things I don’t even think about when I’m in this middle of this scoring job, simply because I know I won’t have time to work on them while so many extra hours are being spent working.
The problem with survival mode, though, is that we sometimes shut out important things. When I am in survival mode, I don’t spend much time cooking, cleaning, or spending quality time with my family. I don’t read books, other than a few minutes at bedtime on the rare nights I’m not too tired. No date nights with my hubby. No vacations. Sometimes I don’t even style my hair or put on makeup if I think it’s going to take too long (I have long hair and can get away with just combing it most days).
The other thing I tend to skimp on when I am in survival mode is my “God time.” Although it isn’t an intentional thing, I tend to narrow my focus so much when I am just surviving that God gets squeezed right out of my view. Although I always know God is with me, I tend to be trying so hard to make sure I survive that I forget to include Him in the whole equation.
When we approach the busy or stressful times in our lives by shutting out God, we deny ourselves His help and comfort. God acts in our lives if we ask Him to do so. When we realize that we don’t have to survive, we can focus not just on what needs to be done this day or this moment, but also on our goals and the ways we want to move forward in life. God is a big part of this, if we ask Him to be.
While I am never going to gain an extra 4 to 8 hours in my schedule, I can approach the stressful times in my life by embracing God rather than shutting Him out as if He was a distraction. As fast-paced as our world is today, we could easily walk around in focused on “just surviving” most or all of the time. Walking with God during these times will allow us not to lose sight of what He wants for our lives.