A rubber-band was designed to be stretched. Yet every rubber-band has a limit—a red-zone of danger and breakage. So long as you stretch a rubber-band within its safe-zone, you’re good. But cross into that red-zone, and breaking the rubber-band is only a matter of time.
When rubber-bands break they become unusable for their intended purpose, not to mention the snapback is usually painful.
You and I are like rubber-bands in a lot of ways. When we stretch ourselves too thin, we get into a red-zone—we exhaust ourselves and wear ourselves to the breaking point. And breakage causes a lot of collateral damage. We hurt the testimony of Jesus. We hurt our marriages, our kids, our church families, and others. The red-zone is a bad place to be.
Everybody wants to “reach their potential”—but few realize this is code language for “I want to be stretched right up to the red-zone.” Driven people tend to LIVE in the red-zone. (For the record, I’ve put myself in that red-zone plenty.) Red-zone feels productive, exciting, and validating; but it’s also dangerous, depleting, and disappointing. There’s nothing healthy or noble about living on the edge of insanity and exhaustion. Eventually it will catch up and the price is high.
To the other extreme, some Christians seem to be so insulated from the red-zone that they have retreated to the polar opposite—a safe, comfort-zone of lethargy and apathy. In this zone, there are no risks, no stretching, and very little in the way of “doing” when it comes to stewarding life for Jesus. This is like a rubber-band sitting in a drawer dry-rotting. It’s no where near breakage, but it’s also no where near usefulness.
Some believe the red-zone to be spiritual. Neglecting health, rest, relationships, and solitude with God for the sake of harried, hurried, hectic ministry life is not biblical. This activity is actually an expression of self-centeredness. It is self-dependent, self-reliant, and faithless. It is dishonoring to Jesus.
Others believe the comfort-zone of lethargy to be spiritual. They view sitting in the drawer “doing nothing” as an act of “placing it all in God’s hands.” This lack of activity is simply disobedience. God calls us to “do.” He intends for us to co-labor with Him—to steward the life, energy, gifts, and opportunities He has given to us for His glory and purposes.
There is a land between red-zone and comfort zone—a land between frenzy and lethargy. It’s a safe-zone where stretching happens but not into the red-zone. It’s a place where serving flows with energy and also balance. It’s a place where zeal doesn’t attempt to ignore the finiteness of our own limitations and weaknesses. It’s a zone where exerting is balanced by restoring, a place where we love to labor with Jesus and love to rest in Jesus.
A.W. Tozer addressed this issue profoundly when he wrote:
“That many Christians in our day are lukewarm and somnolent will not be denied by anyone with an anointed eye, but the cure is not to stir them up to a frenzy of activity. That would be but to take them out of one error and into another. What we need is a zealous hunger for God, an avid thirst after righteousness, a pain-filled longing to be Christlike and holy. We need a zeal that is loving, self-effacing and lowly. No other kind will do.
“That pure love for God and men which expresses itself in a burning desire to advance God’s glory and leads to poured-out devotion to the temporal and eternal welfare of our fellow men is certainly approved of God; but the nervous, squirrel-cage activity of self-centered and ambitious religious leaders is just as certainly offensive to Him and will prove at last to have been injurious to the souls of countless millions of human beings.”
Living in the safe-zone (avoiding the red-zone and comfort zone) is a long spiritual journey of learning and discerning. I’m in my 25th year of ministry, and I still struggle to know the boundaries, understand the nuances, and respect the borders of my own limitations and the Lordship of Jesus. For when I’m nudging up against either border—red-zone or comfort-zone, I’m living under my own lordship, NOT His.
More often than not, I fight the urge of “frenzied, nervous, squirrel-cage activity.” Let’s face it, it feels so valuable, validating, and self-congratulating to be “busy!” Busyness exposes our quest for identity in “what we can do for Jesus” rather than “who we are in Jesus.” We think busy means important. We think busy means valuable. We think busy means productive. But it doesn’t. Busy is just a bad task master!
I’m so GLAD that God calls us out of the comfort-zone, but not into the red-zone. As for me, my heart is on a relentless pursuit of pure-hearted balance. I’m not after frenzy, and I’m not interested in lethargy. It’s not all up to me. It’s all up to Him. Red-zone addicts can have it. Comfort-zone addicts can have it. Lord, lead me daily, weekly, monthly into the faith-zone of hard-working, oft-resting balance.
The greatest works of God are those that are not visible or measurable, those you did not produce and cannot quantify. So often our frenzy is in an effort to produce something we can see and count right now, up close—it is often self-congratulatory and comparitive. But the deepest miracles of God are those that defy explanation and reason—they cannot be explained by your effort, expertise, or personal frenzied pace.
His deepest, best works are in the human heart and in the cultivation of spiritual health (personally and organizationally) over many years. His best and most substantive blessings are most clearly seen decades down the road. The things you will most cherish ten and twenty years from now are NOT the things you made happen, but things you cannot explain how they happened. These are the places where God is glorified greatly through our lives.
If you’re going to survive and still be serving decades from now, to see those blessings clearly, you MUST live in the safe-zone. You must dwell as often as possible in that land between. The purpose of this post is to simply say that land DOES EXIST, and GOD IS PLEASED WITH YOU THERE. Finding it and living in it is a lifetime journey.
God bless you on that daily quest to both labor and rest in the land between frenzy and apathy!
“Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6)