Pour Yourself Out
From Ecclesiastes 9
Last week, we said, let your big dreams be few (see Ecclesiastes 5:2-3). Your resources are limited. Your time has an end date. Don’t pour yourself out for too much, or you may find, at the end, you’ve done nothing to capacity. You’ve achieved no dreams by going for so many dreams at once.
Today, we’re building on that conversation. Ecclesiastes 9 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (v. 10). In other words, when you’ve whittled down your options and prayed about it and decided—This is my big dream—then it’s time to get on with it. Don’t pour yourself out for too much, but friend, do pour yourself out.
I had a friend in grad school who said, “I know I’m not the best writer in the room. But I can be the most successful.” He said that not because he was arrogant or naïve, but because he was determined. He wasn’t the best writer, if you consider raw talent alone, but he has become one of the more successful writers from our class because he continually seeks opportunities and puts himself out there and tries new things and hasn’t given up.
It’s what Pat Summitt said: “Here’s how I’m going to beat you. I’m going to outwork you. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.”*
Choose your work wisely. Then do your work well. It’s that simple—your recipe for big-dream success.
I’m learning this, but it’s been a struggle. It’s not doing the work that’s hard for me; at least, that’s not as hard as limiting my work. I’ve always struggled with an overcommitted (aka divided) heart. When I was in high school, for instance, I was equally drawn to English and music. I pursued the highest awards and achievements in both, and when I went to college, I couldn’t decide. I began as a double major.
But about a year in, the choice was made for me. Damage to my vocal cords—from overuse and improper technique—narrowed my options to English.
A few months ago, and many years since I left singing behind (outside of serenading my daughter or belting Ed Sheeran in the car), my parents and I attended a musical directed by a friend. “Do you miss it?” my mom asked. She knew what a large role music and the stage had played for me in my past. She knew because she and Dad were there—at every performance, every time. “Not really,” I said, surprising myself.
I realized then that the best way I’ve found to cure myself of overcommitment is fully committing to what I love.
I love writing and reading. I love words and stories and language. I even love grammar (feel free to raise your brows on that one—I can’t explain it). And I’m finding that when I’m in the thick of pursuing those things, when I’m fully poured out for them—giving them my time, energy, creativity, and grit—I don’t have the time, ability, or interest to invest in something else.
I am 100 percent content to let you sing while I sit in the audience and cheer.
I’m content because I know—I’m doing my thing. There’s no need to compete with yours. So, friend, go on and do your thing. Center yourself full-on toward your dream. Whatever it is, “do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you [and me and all the rest of us] are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Next week‘s reading: Ecclesiastes 9:11-18–Song of Solomon 1:9–2:7.
*Thank you to Craig Evans for sharing this quote in his sermon on Sunday!