A Do-Gooder's Dilemma

As a follower of Jesus, I have always been a relentless activist in the fight for social justice. A downside to being a woman of action is that I have sometime neglected to take care of myself, spend time with those who I care about and my need for alone time with God. At the age of 27, I co-founded Nomi Network, a non-profit organization to combat modern day slavery. Since then, I have worked non-stop to get the organization off the ground. As the co-founder and president, I often get accolades for the good work that I am doing, but it nearly drove me into the ground. Recently, I arrived at an insight to help bring more balance in my life.

When I was 5 I learned that my mother had a debilitating disease that impaired her ability to take care of my brother and me. I was left with the reality that I would never have a mom that would be fully present in my life. Angry with God, I grew up fast -- from making my own breakfast to picking out clothes to wear for school. My father was angry, emotionally absent and extremely verbally abusive. I became depressed and did everything I could to not be home. That meant getting involved in student government, track, tennis and other extra-curricular activities -- whatever I could do to get my mind off of how awful things were at home.

In the midst of all the busyness, I was also involved with a Christian club in high school. I was reading the Bible and going to church, but it wasn't until I experienced the power of Christ and His unconditional forgiveness and love that my life began to change. By God's grace and specific people, He encouraged me. I rejected the discouraging words my father spoke over me and embraced God's words of love, identity, and purpose, over my life. Fast-forward 10 years and help launch a non-profit organization. Fifteen years later, by the will of God, I helped start a successful non-profit organization.

Any entrepreneur will tell you that start-ups require massive amount of time, resources and tender loving care. So of course, it was easy to rationalize the late nights and weekends that I set aside to work on my non-profit organization. My friendships and relationships with family members suffered and the one thing that I was most passionate about was becoming a heavy burden. Recently, I joined a nine month program -- Gotham Fellowship which is not your silver bullet self help program but it did give me a structured space to reflect and dig deeper and gain a fresh perspective on my life. I quickly realized that my old patterns had returned. In high school, I was consumed with every possible activity and now I was working overly long hours and letting other parts of my life wither.

One day, while I was reading the Bible this verse hit me -- "It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved rest." Psalm 127:2. In this rest, I am to receive His love and embrace my family, the very people that hurt me the most. As we enter the New Year, it is important to take a step back and ask the question of why as opposed to what. So many times we get asked what do you do, who do you work for? Of course, these questions reveal a lot about a person and the do-gooders are often revered when they share what they do. However, I think the more important question is, why do you do it? This question will lead you to a place of rest and not burning out while attempting to do God's work. I have learned that I can only do so much but if I rely on God and not my own strength or abilities, the path is narrow but easy.