Clear Your Plate
Remember when you were a kid and your mum told you that if you didn’t clear your plate you wouldn’t get dessert? And remember that feeling of smugness you felt when you did clear your plate and got dessert but your sibling didn’t because they’d left all that yummy, delicious kale on the plate? Some wise soul once said, “If we want to live a full, attentive life to God and others we need to clear our plates.” Wise words indeed. But how do we clear our overfull plates when we’re overstuffed on busyness and we’re not able to live that full, attentive life to God and others? How do we enjoy the good, sweet part that becomes the reward for clearing our plates?
The problem isn’t that we wouldn’t gladly clear our plates from all our busyness, we just don’t know how to. People know that busyness takes all their time and gives them nothing in return, everyone gets that part. But it just seems that the urgent always pushes out the important, making the clearing of our plates so much harder.
People want to be seen by their peers as working hard, not hardly working, and if we’re honest with ourselves we feel guilty doing ‘nothing’. But this is why we will never clear our plates because our try-hard, performance-based, need for approval mindsets won’t allow it. The little voice inside that warns us if we did clear our plates we’d have no excuses to have a deep, meaningful relationship with God. This feels too raw, too honest, and too scary. We all want the sticky sweetness that dessert offers, the rush of the sugar high that comes from living out a full, attentive life to God and others, however, we’re too afraid to allow God to clear our plates so we can get to the good part.
If you’re struggling to clear your plate and want to live a full, attentive life to God and others, here are two suggestions.
1. Clear Your Plate From Striving.
The sweetness found in dessert will not come unless we clear our plates from striving. If we want to know the length, breadth, width, and depth of God’s love, we need to be rooted and grounded in an understanding that to walk in that love we have to be willing to stop striving and quit doing everything in our strength. Resting in the knowledge that God is your provider, your provision-giver, and your strength means that no matter what season you find yourself in, you know that He will shield and shelter you by providing everything you need to experience the sweet ‘dessert life’ you long for.
Before David’s promise of becoming the next King of Israel was fulfilled, he spent years living in caves because he was hiding from jealous King Saul who wanted him dead. David was forced to clear his plate of everything he was doing in his own strength. But the clearing of his plate, and the time spent in those dark, lonely caves, helped him to trust God totally and completely when he eventually became King of Israel. ‘You spoke to your prophets in visions, saying, “I have found a mighty hero for my people. I have chosen David as my loving servant and exalted him. I have anointed him as king with oil of my holiness. I will be a strength to him and I will give him my grace to sustain him no matter what comes.”’ (Psalm 89: 19-21 TPT)
2. Clear Your Plate From Too Many “Yeses”.
The sweetness found in dessert will not come unless we learn what to say “yes” to and what we need to say “no” to. Saying yes to the things that move us toward clearing our plates so we can enjoy the sweetness of a more productive life only comes with hard-won wisdom. As Barron Fiedrich Von Hügel wisely said, “Wise living requires frequent refusals”. Being a ‘recovering people pleaser ’myself, I have learned the hard way from not clearing my plate from too many “yeses” I promised to other people. Believe me, wearing the burned-out, train wreck tee shirt of busyness isn’t what all the cool kids are wearing.
Giving our full attention to God and others is found in the freedom of saying “no” to everything that could go onto our plate but we choose to refuse. God isn’t going to bless our re-enactment of a scene from the Charles Dickens Oliver Twist novel as we hold our plates out and ask Him for more when our plates are already overloaded. Remember, Oliver, cleared his plate first. However, dear people-pleaser, yours is still full. If you’re struggling with clearing your plate because you say “yes” to everything and can’t say “no” to nothing, a good place to start is to ask God, “Is this “yes” going to move me toward my dream of living in the sweetness of a ‘dessert life’ or will this “yes” move me away from it?”
Jesus is the ultimate example when it came to living out a ‘clear plate’ mindset. When His ministry was popular, crowds surrounded Him everywhere He went. But Jesus wasn’t afraid to disappoint people, and He never allowed the expectations of others to stop Him from doing the will of His Father. ‘One day Lazarus became very sick to the point of death. So, his sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, our brother Lazarus, the one you love, is very sick. Please come!” When He heard this, he said, “This sickness will not end in death for Lazarus but will bring glory and praise to God. This will reveal the greatness of the Son of God by what takes place.” Now even though Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, he remained where He was for two more days.’ (John 11:2-6 TPT) The resurrection of their brother was all the sweeter when Jesus shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus! Come out of the tomb!”
All our efforts in working hard are hardly working because our overstuffed plates allow us no time with God, no margin for rest, and no room to say a firm but polite “NO” to people. So, the delicious, sweet treats on the dessert trolley are left unattended and uneaten. I’m certainly not feeling smug from the comfort of the dessert trolley because you struggle to clear your plate. I too have to keep checking my plate to see what’s on it and what I’ve said “yes” to and learn not to strive again by doing things in my own strength rather than God’s. Like any good meal, life is all about balance and God gives so much grace to His children who need constant reminding to clear their plates so they can enjoy His sweet presence and live out a balanced life.
If you’re struggling and want to live a full, attentive life to God and others, it’s time to clear your plate!
Where have you found that saying “yes” to things so you don’t disappoint people has made your plate too full and now you’re struggling to clear your plate and enjoy the sweet life of dessert?
I pray today, that God’s grace will help you in your striving, try-hard, performance-based need for approval. The times when you struggle to say “no” to people because you feel you’ll offend them. The mindset which hasn’t given you room to clear your plate and allow you peace in the knowledge that God is your provider, your provision-giver, and your strength. God is your shield and your shelter. He is everything you need to experience the sweet ‘dessert life’ you long for. I pray for courage and for wisdom in what to say “yes” to and when to say “no”. Amen.