There’s a phrase in the corporate world (where I’ve mastered the art of wearing many hats), called “below the line.” My team meets once per month to decide which tasks to prioritize. Then, we label all other tasks as being “below the line.”
In a pre-COVID world, everything was above the line for me. I was a “yes” person. “Yes,” to more at work. “Yes,” to more projects at home. “Yes,” to helping anyone do anything at any time.
I will always feel insensitive saying that I’m thankful for the year 2020. But I gained so much from the pause. It gave me time with my four kids. It gave me the ability to slow down and say “no.” I’m not saying I’ve become a “no” person; I’ve learned how to care about the right things. I’ve become a person who can label more of my day-to-day activities as “below the line.”
I don’t want to wear real clothes anymore, but that’s not the point.
It’s an odd statement to make, but I’ve grown to love leggings, t-shirts, socks and messy heaps of hair on top of my unpolished face.
I don’t want to commute anymore, but even that’s not the point.
I want to say “yes” to early morning television with my two-year-old, covered up in our yellow blanket on the big blue chair. I want to say “no” to the 90 minutes of back-and-forth commuting that prevents me from doing that.
The point is that I want to have my priorities in order.
I used to be an obsessive compulsive, type-A go-getter. I’d wash the dishes and then wipe out the water droplets from the sink so that everything was perfect. I’d vacuum myself out of rooms so that there were no footprints on the carpets.
Then, when I was forced to slow down, and I was literally stuck in my messy house to help flatten the curve, I flattened the curve of something else entirely. I realized that my house was spic and span, but I was still messy on the inside. I realized that my to-do list was fully checked off (frame-worthy status), but several things on my priority list had fallen “below the line”:
- Quiet time in Scripture and prayer
- Quality time with my kids and husband
And, yes, in that order.
John 3:30 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” When we put everything above the line, we aren’t leaving any room for Jesus to increase. But what if we’re saying “yes” to things in ministry? Yeah, I get it. Sometimes our “yes” is going to be to serving. I urge you to not say “no” to serving but to say “yes” to serving effectively. For example, you shouldn’t be double-booked to serve in the sound booth and kids’ church. Let your “no” be intentional, and let your “yes” be effective.
When we look at Jesus in the heart of his ministry, we see that he often retreated to pray to his Father. He would leave crowds and walk in what we assume to be leather sandals up a rocky hill to pray. He’d venture away on a boat to the middle of a lake and pray. He’d befuddle his parents at the ripe age of 12 to disappear into a temple to pray to his Father, and his response was never apologetic. Never explanatory. In fact, he called people out on their expectations.
Mark 1:35-37 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: everyone is looking for you!”
We can learn a lot from the many verses where Jesus goes off to pray quietly, by himself. But with this one, the last line spoken by Simon always gets me. “Everyone is looking for you.” But are they? When I’m agonizing over turning in a project or the current state of my living room baseboard gunk, am I looking for Jesus or am I looking for something else?
So much of this is about expectation. We want to say “yes” to things that meet certain expectations or help us reach a goal or a quality bar. But we aren’t looking for Jesus because if we were looking for Jesus, we’d be praying like he did. We’d be retreating as early as possible and as often as possible and putting a pause on expectations so that we can prioritize the right thing.
I want everything else to be below the line. I want prayer and presence to be my priority. I understand that life is going to get busy again, and for all of us that is a good thing. But I also never want to lose the ability to demand a slowdown. I want to say “no” to the expectations of our world, so that I can say “yes” to the things Jesus called me to be. A child of God. A mommy to four. A wife. A person who is willing to say “yes” to a purpose-driven life.
Kelly Yonce is the social media and communications pastor at Providence Church in Summerville, South Carolina. She is a wife, mom of four and serves on the worship and outreach teams at Providence. She also has a day job in publishing, which fuels her love of reading and writing.