Who is Your Gatekeeper?

When my daughter was in training to manage a fast food restaurant, she was surprised to learn that a sudden rush of customers doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to open more cash registers. Why? Because taking orders faster does no good, if the kitchen can’t keep up. Nothing frustrates customers more than to be stuck waiting around after they’ve already paid for their food. If there’s going to be a bottleneck, it should happen while they’re still free to leave, before they’ve put down their money.

cashier

This is a good analogy for the yes-or-no choices we face every day in our personal lives. Wanting to be generous with our time and energy, our impulse is to say “yes” every time we’re asked to step up and take on a worthwhile responsibility. We think it’s virtuous to overextend ourselves. “Giving our all” means taking on more than we think we can handle and then relying on God to come through with the power to get the job done. Right?

Wrong! God expects us to be good stewards of the time and talents he has given us. Good stewards deploy their resources carefully. Good stewards count the cost and make the hard choices—saying “no” to some things so they can say “yes” to others.

We don’t do anyone a favor by saying “Yes I’ll do it,” and then failing because we’ve taken on more than we can handle.

As a young adult, I was very puzzled by God. He kept putting unmet needs in my  path, so I dutifully tried to meet them all. I didn’t understand why my efforts often resulted in people being angry with me. Many hard lessons later, I came to realize that my behavior was like a restaurateur who opens all the cash registers while the kitchen is short-staffed. My warm and caring overtures invited people to rely on me as a true friend, when in fact I was just passing through on my way to a dozen previous commitments. Disappointment inevitably followed when I didn’t stick around to finish what I had started.

I knew, all along, that my commitments were too many for one person to fulfill, but I blamed God for the situation. After all, He was the one who kept bringing needs and problems to my attention. It took me a long time to understand that it’s my job to limit my commitments to a reasonable level. I am the “gatekeeper” for my availability to others. No one else can do this job for me. Saying “no” is part of being a good steward of my time and energy.

God doesn’t expect any of us to be omnipotent, solving all problems. He does expect us to be honest, and not mislead people by promising more than we can deliver.

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