Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ann, and I am a compartmentalized woman.
I have a variety of titles, jobs, responsibilities, all of which I often need to keep individualized and separate. Even if some of my responsibilities overlap, typically each job must hold its own space on the schedule. The lines between them cannot be allowed to blur lest I fail to honor my responsibilities in one or the other.
For many years, I have seen this compartmentalism as necessary for functionality, organization, balance, and excellence. And this viewpoint has, indeed, proven useful. I have seen ways in which various roles and tasks have been able to be added or taken away simply because they were not intricately intertwined with other aspects of my life.
Lately, though, a nagging thought – heavily based in what I’ve been studying in God’s Word and other spiritually nourishing sources – has begun to challenge my compartmentalism. Holes in my “balance” are appearing, and an underlying conviction eats at my mind as I consider the ways I cling to the barriers I have placed between each of my roles.
Recently, my husband and I were challenged to create a personal, six-word mission statement. We have created mission statements before, but it was definitely time for a fresh evaluation. As I pondered mine, my mind settled on one of my favorite refocus verses, 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (NASB)” From that flowed my new mission statement: Glorify God in each immediate task. It seems somewhat vague and generic. Yet for me, when kept in front of me day in and day out, this simple statement provides focus and direction for every single thing I do. Details can be hashed out, but this becomes the focus.
As I processed through creating this mission statement and evaluating its implication, I was also about halfway through reading Your God is too Safe by Mark Buchanan, in the middle of a chapter discussing our tendency toward compartmentalism – not necessarily our divisions into different roles, but instead our distinction between sacred and secular. Our tendency to make some aspects of our life about the sacred relationship we have with God while others are just about life. About the way we build our homes and cook our meals and process through daily life without an utter sense of the perpetual sacredness of life as children of God. One paragraph in particular grabbed my imagination and wouldn’t let go:
“Here’s a problem: The Bible doesn’t know about this distinction. Read the Old Testament or read the New: The Bible makes no room for the idea of the secular. In the biblical worldview, there is only the sacred and the profane, and the profane is just the sacred abused, unkempt, trampled down, trivialized, turned inside out. It is just the holy treated in an unholy way.”
Buchanan follows this statement with a series of Scripture passages – Colossians 1:16-17, Psalm 50:12, and Acts 17:28 – that eradicate the distinction.
I have prided myself in my habit of compartmentalization, but this habit has become less about keeping balance in my life and more about trying to create a distinction between the sacred and the “secular.” This distinction compromises the importance of each role in the sight of my obedience to Christ. It has created a god out of my callings and roles rather than allowing those roles to honor and glorify the one true God. In short, it has abused the sacred calling God has put before me.
Whether you define it as calling or destiny or simple obedience, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that each of the roles I’m a part of has been God-ordained. And yet, if I am honest, I have to recognize that I have allowed these roles to become taskmasters, driving me to accomplish the work well for the sake of being good at what I do rather than for the purpose of glorifying God. After all, if I keep each role compartmentalized and the barriers between them strong, then when I am failing in one area, perhaps I can still succeed in another. Where I am being ridiculed in one role, I can seek praise in another. Where I am weak and uncertain in one, I can be strong and confident in another.
Because of my compartmentalization, the glory is in the role because the roles reign supreme.
When I change my focus, I instead realize that there is one role and only one that I truly need to consider: I must seek to glorify God in each immediate task. Whether that task is serving beside my husband in ministry, teaching my children, creating lesson plans or editing content for work, preparing a Sunday school lesson, listening to a woman from church pour out her heart, hashing out an article or blog post, or simply pushing through the daily tasks involved in being a wife and mother, those tasks must be done with the sacred in mind. They must be done under the overarching umbrella of the glorification of God.
As I ponder how my life must change in response to this nagging lesson, I realize there is no problem in keeping my schedule compartmentalized. Each role, each task, may still hold its slot in the planner. The healthy boundaries can and should remain so that I can stay diligent in the tasks before me. But, the compartmentalization of the roles themselves must go. I must have only one role: to glorify God in each immediate task. To live a life so immersed in Christ that He is able to show me the sacred in every breath and action of my life.
Ann Hibbard is a follower of Jesus and recognizes that God was gracious to gift her chocolate and her husband coffee. She is a Southern Baptist missionary kid, second generation homeschooler, pastor’s wife, and mom of three. She loves encouraging and equipping others, especially women in the homeschooling and ministry communities. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.