Monday, a friend at church asked me if I could do a bit of last-minute writing for our parish. I do a lot of editing for my church, and usually I'm able to turn things around within a couple of hours because, as a writer, I'm always working at my computer. But Monday, I had to say no. My current freelance assignment is taking longer than I expected, and I just didn't feel that I had a couple of hours to spare.
Of course, I felt guilty afterwards. I started thinking that maybe I could do the article she wanted if I could just get a one-day extension on the deadline. I checked back with my friend later that evening, and she'd already found someone else to do it. So there was no need for me to feel guilty. I'm not indispensable after all.
I'm reminded of a passage from a book I read about 20 years ago: Letters from the Desert by Carlo Carretto. So I'll share it with you:
For many years I had thought I was "somebody" in the Church. I had even imagined this sacred living structure of the Church as a temple sustained by many columns, large and small, each one with the shoulder of a Christian under it.My own shoulder too I thought of as supporting a column, however small. . . . With this mentality I was no longer capable [of] taking a holiday; . . . there was never enough time to get everything done. One raced continually from one project to another, from one meeting to another, from one city to another. Prayer was hurried, conversations frenzied, and one's heart in turmoil.
Then God called Carretto to give up all his activity and go into the desert. He went to North Africa and joined the Little Brothers. He explained,
Now I was here, kneeling on the sand of the cave, which had taken on the dimensions of the Church itself; on my shoulders I could feel the small column of the activist. Perhaps this was the moment of truth.I drew back suddenly as though to free myself from this weight. What had happened? Everything remained in its place, motionless. Not a movement, not a sound. After twenty-five years I had realized that nothing was burdening my shoulders and that the column was my own creation—sham, unreal, the product of my imagination and my vanity.I had walked, run, spoken, organized, worked, in the belief that I was supporting something; and in reality I had been holding up absolutely nothing.The weight of the world was all on Christ.
Sometimes what we need is to be shaken out of our complacency and to become more of an activist. And sometimes what we need is to say no.