Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Consecrated Negligence"


Another new year.

And probably like most people - at least in western societies and cultures - I've been taking stock of the past twelve months, evaluating successes, analyzing failures and trying to figure out what I need to change to better be obedient to God, love and honor Him while also genuinely loving the people around me. 

Thanks to a book I've been reading, one recommended by a trusted friend and mentor, the words "consecrated negligence" probably best describe one of my key goals for this next year. I'm sharing them with you because they are words from which many of us missionary types would benefit if we would only take them to heart. 

This year is a furlough/home assignment year. Our Nigerien colleagues always called it a vacation or holiday. Most missionaries know that it is anything but. 

Six months in, I'm feeling the exhaustion/exultation all mixed up... Piled on top of that, there's the exhaustion of an intense ministry term in West Africa and then just the transition of coming back to our home country and readjusting to life here - it has been a huge learning curve... and what I'm learning is that I can't do it all the way I've managed in the past. I've not yet determined if it is because I'm getting older or it is because as my kids get older, their needs actually become more demanding (not to mention the stakes seem a lot higher) and I'm being stretched in so many more and different ways... 

Things that I want... that I believe should... be happening just aren't. Like the ladies' Bible study I was looking forward to attending. Or learning to make a sourdough starter and bake sourdough bread... Not to mention just keeping up with the laundry (with consistent electricity and water) and a dryer! More than once I've felt like these trees might have felt (if I believed that trees had feelings) after the huge ice storm that rolled through our part of the world a few weeks back... bent over, weighed down, knowing that something soon - any more piled on or hanging off - just might cause me to crack and crash to the ground... or reshape me so much that there is little hope of bouncing back.

Thus, as I'm reading about expat workers and emotional fatigue and realizing I'm more or less in that zone - the phrase "consecrated negligence" has bored its way into the fog, and is something that God will be teaching me more about this year.

What is "consecrated negligence?"

It isn't a term I coined and I don't even know who to credit - other than the vague credit given in the book I've been reading: 
One Christian worker in Denver practices what he calls consecrated negligence. He just chooses not to do certain things even though they need to be done. He says, "If those tasks aren't critical and I feel like I've done all I can handle, I just consecrate the to God and neglect them."
I guess some would call that prioritizing. Others might call it delegating.

But for driven, perfectionist types like myself, there is a key difference. Prioritizing doesn't remove or ever look the other way. It simply says that I'll do that other job once I get these more imperative things done first. Delegating takes a job that I'm convinced is important and gives or assigns it to someone else, for someone else to accomplish.

Neglect, on the other hand, is abandoning and failing to look after; it implies choosing not to cherish and disregarding, often because other things have already captured your time and attention. One synonym is "shirk." 

Put that way, it sounds unbiblical.

But is it any less unbiblical than forgetting that it all doesn't depend on me? That God actually doesn't need me? 

And so this year, one of my hopes is that I'll take some steps in practicing this consecrated negligence. I want to be able to realize that some things I'm doing because they are my ideas, not necessarily God's. For those things that I just can't do and the times when I can't keep up - I want to learn to purposefully step away and recognize that what God wants done, He ultimately handles it or impresses someone to serve in that way. Sometimes the stepping away might be from something mundane - like making sure the house is picked up each night before bed. Sometimes it might include higher stakes, like an upcoming and potentially life changing ministry opportunity. But in either circumstance as well as an infinity of other ones landing anywhere along said continuum, I know there are times God wants me to abandon my ideas of what needs to be done and rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign.

I'm still figuring out how to figure this all out...

What about you?
What do you think of this idea of consecrated negligence? 
Do you already practice the same thing by another name? 
Is this something you think you need to start learning, practicing and applying in your life?


  1. Wonderful. I very much love this as it is where i was about three months ago. I have observed our family and church ministries since the 'consecrated negligence' and now see what a theological and interpersonal error it is to see my involvement in everything making it better or more GodlySo arrogant to think God want my hands in everything. I see the youth that I have decided I cannot help and disciple right now, and it still dis-heartens me, but God reminds me HE is holding their hand and it has nothing to do with me. IN GRACE magical things will happen out of our weakness. We have no idea, maybe our absence in this opportunity or that is growing another closer to him! great post!

    1. Hi Andrea - sorry it has taken to long to get back to you. We've been on the road!

      Glad this spoke to you - It is so hard to let go of something you can see needs to be done... something for which you have a vision... but something that is just too overwhelming or not for you to do, especially when no one else seems to catch that burden. I think it is super hard to find the balance between this sort of "consecrated negligence" and allowing God to work in and through us to do things even in our weakness... as I've thought about this even more since writing the post. I'd love to hear from you how you think that balance works.