Fill Me and Still Me
By: Danielle Calhoun
A few years ago, I was introduced to the term ‘low-functioning’ in a book I was reading at the time. I had never heard of anyone referring to themselves as a ‘low functioning person’ up until that moment, and yet I understood the term intimately.
In a society driven by productivity and quantifying worth by what is getting done in our personal and professional lives, being labeled ‘low functioning’ sounds insulting, does it not? We are subtly expected to RUN at max capacity for the rest of our days, always competing with the unspoken understanding that we are keeping our ‘tanks’ FULL at the same time. And, to be fair, some people GOT IT! There are folks designed to do all the things and be at all the places, and that busy-ness fills their tanks and keeps them moving. They make it look easy, and, internally (at least for me), I thought my experience should resemble the same. Personally though, I was living a lie by trying to look the part. In my self righteousness, I wanted so desperately to be the person that could do all the things, ready to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity I was invited into, yet, I just wasn’t designed to be that gal.
I do this silly visualization thing sometimes when I’m prayerfully reflecting. I imagine God is looking over the resume of my most authentic self with all of my imperfections laid out bare and peering over the edge of the paper to gaze at me inquisitively (with a hidden grin) for effect, as I sheepishly look back with TEARY EYES HUGE, HEART SHATTERED, SPIRIT WIDE OPEN, fully aware I am completely seen and known and couldn’t hide any of those less than ideal parts even if I tried. Then, He places the resume down, extends His welcoming hand, and reminds me I’m the exact person He needed for the job. What is ‘the job’ you ask? To lovingly live for Him in this life I have been given, precisely how I am, flaws and all.
The reality is, I get overwhelmed easily. I didn’t really recognize it consciously for quite a long time actually. My closest friends call me an undercover introvert-extrovert. I can stand in front of thousands of people in a packed auditorium and engage them for hours on a topic I was given just before walking onto stage, with the confidence and charm of a charismatic preacher, without issue, but the moment I get off stage, you will find me hiding in a corner. I have had the tendency to give of myself 110% until I am EMPTY and hit a debilitating wall that derails the whole dang train.
In the past, I have ended up either really sick or being completely knocked off my feet. There would be times where I would leave for a speaking engagement, networking event, mission trip, or volunteer opportunity and return home confused and exhausted with nothing left to give to those I have been so exclusively given. I did this on repeat for the first ten years of my marriage. It was brutal. But, God.
I came to the very slow realization that I require a lot of down time and rest in order to love and give and be the best version God designed me to be. This shouldn’t have taken me so long to realize. Even Jesus exemplified the need for ongoing rest throughout His ministry, and He was GOD incarnate. He literally called us, in Matthew 11:28 (the weary and burdened), to rest in HIM.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 NIV
It took thirty years of life for me to fully recognize if Jesus needed rest, I should probably practice that with even more diligence and devotion because I am as HUMAN and broken and limited as they come. I was always going, going, going, and then CRASH! Going, going, going, CRASH! This was on repeat until finally everything in my life truly CRASHED, and I came face to face with the reality that I simply could not do it all, WELL, at least.
At the time of my biggest CRASH, I ran a successful online wedding blog, moderated a beautiful community of national wedding vendors, participated in multiple ministries and outreach programs, and spoke at industry events around the country regularly. I did all of this while trying to juggle the demands of being a business owner, social influencer, ministry coordinator, wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend. Being busy, seen, followed, and active was where I placed ALL of my worth and value.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
1 Peter 5:10 NIV
If it weren’t for my inner circle reminding me of my identity in Christ ALONE, I am not sure I would have ever been pulled out of the life of restless going and fake authenticity. PRO TIP: Keep faithful friends around you that care enough to kindly call you out (in love) at all times.
So I crashed and nearly burned. Not only were my relationships, faith, and business all neglected messes, but my health took a major dive. The doctors suspected I might have had lymphoma and needed all the tests under the sun completed immediately. And that is when I stopped the FACADE of looking capable of managing all the things.
That undoing season was brutal and humbly heart shattering in every way. I prayed and rested, and got quieter and more present. I saw myself being remade in God’s truth and grace. It felt like I was a caterpillar the whole time wearing fake dollar store butterfly wings (tattered and falling apart), and Jesus, compassionate as ever, said, “Let’s do this one better.” So I entered my cocoon, turned into an ugly, messy ooze pile, transformed, and came out authentically true to my design. In a word: DELICATE. HA!
“It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.”
Galatians 6:15-16: NLT
Praise God, I found HIS GRACE (again) on the edge of my limit, my fringe, my capacity, during that refining period of life. I needed to remove some things from my figurative plate, and that meant taking inventory of my heart and priorities. If I wanted to be mentally, spiritually, and physically my best, overflowing in God’s peace and grace, I desperately needed to be doing less. I sold my business, received counsel, took care of my physical health issues, and my husband and I worked to reconcile our marriage and redeem our family at a much SLOWER PACE than before.
Then, the best thing happened: LIFE GOT SIMPLER, and it didn’t stop there. The last five years, God has been revealing more and more things that have consumed too much of my energy, and He continues to strip away what isn’t serving my life well and peacefully shows me how to release all that holds me back from Christ in love. With every piece of my life I find God releasing in me, I am replenished with something more intentional than ever before. The life I live is simple and slower than most of my peers, but it allows me to be more authentic to who I am and the relationships I’ve been given. I am now living within God’s design for my life and capacity – intimate, personal, messy, vulnerable, awkward, and transformatively present.
So, when I feel that my vessel is beginning to leak again or my spirit is growing restless, my prayer is simple: “Lord, reveal me, fill me, and still me.”
May the beautiful Creator of all that was, is, and yet to come fill you and still you today.